I stumbled across the work of Nikos Papastergiadis a few years ago. The title of the book, The Turbulence of Migration, intrigued me and I purchased it hoping to find some original ideas on the topic. I was not disappointed - this book is an attempt to rethink migration in the context of the late 20th century modern world and globalization.
Why does Papastergiadis say that migration has become “turbulent”? Not too long ago, he says, one could trace the recent mass movements of people in fairly well-defined patterns: the slave trade, guest workers, colonization. (A quick look at my photo at the top of this blog reveals a product of several centuries of European immigration to
While some vestiges of those old patterns remain (there are still many North Africans in
, for example), “The diversity of paths, and the complexity of forms of migration, have meant that it is now almost impossible to map movement with a series of arrows, on a flat two-dimensional representation of the world.” There would be so many arrows flowing in so many different directions from north to south, east to west, across borders, across oceans and continents that one would be hard pressed to assemble some order in the chaos. France
Capital today flows at the speed of light and people follow in spite of all the barriers that nation-states still put in their way. And opportunity or advantage may be just next door, not halfway across the world. A quick look at the migration patterns in Africa reveal that many more people move within Africa than ever end up in the
or the European Union. United States
For the person who fears the competition from immigrant labour or the nation-state that sees its national borders have become permeable (and the raison d’être of the nation-state is to protect its borders), this is a very frightening state of affairs. Mass uncontrolled movements of people also strike fear in the hearts of well-meaning people who believe that a rational design of the social map and “sedentarization” are pre-requisites for institutions that improve people’s lives, the very foundations of social progress. How do you build national health programs or school systems for people who refuse to stay in one place?
As sympathetic as I am to these arguments, I am firmly on the side of the “people who move around”. Every migrant sets off on his journey with trépidation and ambivalence. Economic advantage may be one factor in his decision but it is never the whole story. He must be willing to face a life far from family, to learn another language, to be a cultural novice and to face hostility and violence. That people are willing to do this in greater and greater numbers says to me that there is something so fundamentally human in this desire to move, it is virtually unstoppable.
We must force the government to stop the bird migration. We must shoot all birds, field all our men and troops... and force migratory birds to stay where they are.