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International migration and social theory

Migration A–Z


  1. Karen O'Reilly

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm307

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

O'Reilly, K. 2013. International migration and social theory. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


There is little doubt that international migration has been increasing especially since the 1980s, perhaps doubling since then in terms of absolute numbers (Castles & Miller 2009). Migration also continually changes shape, form, direction, and content to such an extent that it is no longer possible to provide encompassing typologies of migrants, flows, destinations, or outcomes. Migration has become a normal feature of contemporary societies: a global phenomenon of flows and counterflows; geographical fluidity as opposed to population shifts; ongoing daily processes as opposed to unique events. Coincidentally, academic research on migration has drawn the attention of a host of disciplines, including sociology and anthropology, human geography and demography, politics and international relations, and even cultural studies and the arts. It has also become something of a sub-discipline in its own right, albeit with somewhat differential treatment depending on the (inter-)disciplinary perspective being employed. This has led to a “tremendous amount of empirical knowledge” (Bommes & Morawska 2005: 2), and an eclectic approach when it comes to theory (Brettell & Hollifield 2008).


  • development;
  • demography and population studies;
  • labor supply;
  • political economy;
  • economics;
  • sustainability;
  • globalization