Qualitative Methods in Migration Studies

A Critical Realist Perspective

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  • Theodoros Iosifides, University of the Aegean, Greece
  • Recent years have witnessed growing interest in a series of issues related to migration, including identity formation and change, the role of social capital and social networks, ethnic discrimination, racism and xenophobia, socio-political participation and mobilisation and the complex nature of the causal mechanisms linked to migration – issues that are better highlighted and investigated using qualitative methods. Moving away from the quantitative and empiricist-positivist approaches that have often characterised migration research, Qualitative Methods in Migration Studies explores in a concise but comprehensive way the key issues involved in researching migratory phenomena in a qualitative manner. It addresses themes including the basic characteristics of contemporary migration, qualitative research into social processes related to migration, and the relationship between theory, research design and practice. Drawing upon empirical case studies and a series of real and hypothetical examples, the book develops a critical realist alternative both to empiricism and interpretivist, social constructionist and post-structuralist relativism in qualitative migration research. With special emphasis on the meta-theoretical dimensions of qualitative research practice, this volume connects qualitative findings to policy formation and ‘politics making’, exploring the multiple dimensions involved in researching migratory phenomena, such as ontology, epistemology, methodology, ethics and research practice. As such, it will be of interest to students and researchers in migration across the social sciences.
  • Contents: Preface; Introduction; Contemporary migration; Theoretical and epistemological issues in qualitative research: the case for critical realism; Critical realism, social research methodology and qualitative migration research; Conclusions: critical realism, qualitative migration research and politics making; Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Author: Theodoros Iosifides is Assistant Professor of Social Science Methods in the Department of Geography, at the University of the Aegean, Greece
  • Reviews: 'Iosifides' exposition of a critical realist perspective in migration studies is a major contribution, not only to the field of migration, but to social science research in general. The exposition is comprehensive and provides the level of detail necessary to explain clearly a complex topic. The book is a useful tool for those interested in research methods in migration and is likely to become a leading reference work on the topic.'
    Carlos Vargas-Silva, University of Oxford, UK

    'This volume will be invaluable for migration researchers looking to break out of the narrow confines of positivism and interpretivism that dominate the field. While Iosifides’ manifesto for critical realism may not persuade all, this volume should provoke all migration researchers to challenge the orthodoxy and reach for new theoretical directions.'
    Oliver Bakewell, International Migration Institute, University of Oxford, UK

    'Qualitative Methods in Migration Studies is ultimately a great help to social researchers with an ambition to ‘demonstrate the successful identification of, often hidden, unobservable and underlying, causal mechanisms that are responsible for producing observable events, processes, phenomena, perceptions, meanings and representations’ (p. 220) - which the migration field delivers in abundance.'
    Journal of Critical Realism

    'Iosifides discusses the main qualitative methods in social research in terms of their data and strategies applied to migration studies within a realist frame-work. The realist qualitative migratory research is presented as explanatory, critical, emancipatory and socio-politically relevant. The latter is related to migration that is recognized as ‘politics from below’ in which politics are produced by social movements. Therefore realist qualitative migration research can contribute significantly to the ‘politics making’ which determines the ‘socio-political conditions’ of practical pol-icy making in Iosifides` terms. Nevertheless, the significance of the book is majorly due to its challenge to the orthodoxy in social sciences through the domination of positivism and interpretivism where Iosifides demonstrates a break out through underpinning the critical realism.'
    Migration Letters

    'By presenting the key arguments for a critical realist perspective and utilizing the pertinent empirical material in migration studies, this work represents a viable alternative to the dominant traditions in social science research and makes a refreshing contribution to the available literature in the field.'
    Asian and Pacific Migration Journal

    'This book focuses on critical realism and its suitability for migration research. The book is in line with recent attempts to theorise migration in the context of a ‘recovery’ of critical realism, especially within human geography. As a result, this book is a ‘must read’ for various audiences. As Iosifides explicitly notes, every research endeavour should show consistency between its ontological and epistemological assumptions and the methods it employs. Consequently, professionals and researchers of migration concerned with the ontology and epistemology of qualitative and mixed methods have a lot to learn here… would also greatly assist research students in migration studies who seek to understand the implications for their research of various epistemological and ontological approaches. This is especially important because of the disconnection between writings on ontology and epistemology on the one hand, and those on methods on the other… the book is authoritative, based on a very rich analysis and interesting examples, and offers an enlightening read on (qualitative) methods in migration studies and beyond.'
    Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

    '… investigates the potential of critical realism, not just for the social sciences but for the field of Migration Studies in particular… provides an overview of the critical realist method while emphasizing its consonance with other methods used by qualitative and quantitative researchers in the field.'
    Qualitative Research