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Settler migration and colonies

Migration A–Z


  1. Lorenzo Veracini

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm479

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Veracini, L. 2013. Settler migration and colonies. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Colonial processes mobilize peoples in unprecedented ways. While the study of migrations and human displacements has focused primarily on movement across space and only marginally on the sovereign entitlements with which people travel, “settler” remains a term that often applies to any community that ends up permanently residing in a particular locale. Conversely, “immigrant” can apply to all communities that have originated somewhere else. Even if “settler” and “migrant” identify different groups, they are often treated as synonyms. Anthony Smith 's influential classification of different patterns of national formation, for example, distinguishes between the Western, the immigrant, the ethnic, and the colonial. In his characterization “immigrant” refers to locales “where small part-ethnie are beneficiaries of a state of their own,” and where “waves of new immigrants from different cultures” are assimilated “into what becomes increasingly a territorial nation and a political community, as in America, Argentina, Australia” (Smith 1986: 241). In Smith's typology, the “small part-ethnie” and the successive “migratory waves” are identified by the same term. While this terminological interchangeability is remarkable, especially considering that Smith's classification recognizes the distinction between settlers and migrants, a focus on permanence and on the locales of destination – that is, a focus that is fundamentally informed by present conditions – obstructs an appraisal of the different sovereign prerogatives of migrants and settlers (for recent analyses of these contradictions in a British context, see Harper & Constantine 2010; Bickers 2011). While displacement and sovereignty can be articulated in various ways, the settler and the migrant experience should be considered as essentially distinct.


  • Asia;
  • colonialism;
  • labor supply;
  • indigenous peoples;
  • slavery