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Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
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Email: history@msu.edu
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Migration Studies Initiative

The migration studies initiative was developed as a scholarly response to the increase of human movement worldwide, which originates in the economic, technical and political changes of the past few decades. These changes have taken millions of men and women far from home, primarily to seek work, join their families, and take refuge from conflict and ecological disaster.

Not surprisingly, there is increasing demand for studies of this crucial and multifaceted phenomenon. As a result, key research organizations such as the Social Science Research council and Russell Sage Foundation have instituted a variety of programs out of concern for the quality – and quantity – of graduate education in migration.

Changes in the field of History are responsive to the need for a more global, transnational and interdisciplinary perspective that studies of migration encourage. Historians of the U.S. are less likely to study one immigrant group at one location and more likely to study multiple groups, multiple locations, and to be more sophisticated about theory and the process of migration. Moreover, historians of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe are giving increased attention to the history of migration.

The migrations of the past 40 years worldwide thus are becoming the objects of historical research, offering a much needed historical perspective and understanding to complement presentist sociological and anthropological orientations.

The Program

The History Department launched the Migration Studies Initiative in 2002 with strong support from Michigan State University. Currently, key aspects to the Migration Studies Initiative are:

  1. An interdisciplinary graduate course, “Methods and Paradigms for the Study of Migration” (History 854/Sociology 854). Developed and taught by Leslie Moch in consultation with Steve Gold of Sociology and Andrea Louie of Anthropology, the course enrolled a dozen students from the departments of History, Sociology, Hispanic Literature, Education and Anthropology during spring semester 2004; it is offered every spring semester.
  2. The development and elaboration of a minor field for graduate students in Migration Studies.
  3. A grass-roots Immigrant citizenships/Migration Studies Seminar group that offers graduate students and faculty the chance to meet and to talk about their work.
  4. Speakers from other universities to engage students and faculty; those for 2004-2005 included Leo Lucassen, University of Amsterdam, Michel Giraud, Centre National des Recherches Scientifiques (CNRS, Paris), and Karen Richman (University of Notre Dame), who presented along with Javier Pescador (History).

Migration studies builds on strengths throughout the College of Social Science to make MSU a powerhouse in this area.

The focus of the program is to train graduate students and attract faculty who can produce the quality of migration studies that have important policy and planning implications. Migration Studies can also provide courses that respond to the considerable undergraduate interest in human migration worldwide and offer public expertise to alumni and the university community about this key contemporary issue.

Strengths

The Migration Studies program builds on the strengths of the College of Social Science and of the Department of History. In the short term, it is aided by additional funding. It is also linked to several important programs in the Department of History. The highly successful Comparative Black History program, developed over the years with the leadership of Darlene Clark Hine, has attracted new faculty and students whose interests follow the African Diaspora to South America, the Caribbean, the U.S. and Europe. Likewise, the dynamic development Atlantic world field, like many of the most important developing fields in history, is based on the recognition that the movement of people, ideas, and labor systems is fundamental to the historical process.

International migration is embedded in many of the courses in the Comparative Black History program and elsewhere in American History. Javier Pescador has, for example, taught courses on Mexicans-Americans in the U.S. as well as immigrant-oriented courses in sports history. Denicio Valdés has taught a graduate course on labor and migration in the Americas and an undergraduate course on the Chicano movement. Leslie Moch has twice taught an upper-level course on migration in 20th-century Europe, a History 201 that investigates immigrant lives, as well as the interdisciplinary graduate course History/Sociology 854.

The distinctive character of migration studies at Michigan State University lies in the global reach of History Department programs and its ties with the International Centers which offer key resources and programs. Our faculty and graduate students are already closely tied with the Julian Samora Research Institute and the Centers for African Studies, Asian Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and European and Russian Studies. With the development of the Interdisciplinary African Diaspora Ph.D. Program (AAAS) and the Ph.D. in Chicano/Latino Studies, we will be in a position to be at the center of international studies, a “center without walls” connecting shared concerns with research and courses that stretch across and join disciplines. The move of the Department of History into the College of Social Sciences facilitates connections between migration concerns and the revising Global-Urban Program and the Women in International Development (WID) center.

For further information information, contact Leslie Page Moch.