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Reviewed by:
  • What Is Migration History?
  • Patrick Manning
What Is Migration History? By Christiane Harzig and Dirk Hoerder with Donna Gabaccia . Malden, Mass.: Polity Press, 2009. 200 pp. $64.95 (cloth); $19.95 (paper).

This overview emphasizes the gradual incorporation of migration history into the broader field of migration studies. Written for university students, it also raises issues for researchers, as it notes the benefits of comparing and contrasting a wide range of migratory experiences and analytical frameworks. This volume gives principal emphasis to long-distance migration—"international migration" across state borders and migration across cultural frontiers in the long era before state borders became solidified. The authors are the late Christiane Harzig and Dirk Hoerder, her husband. These two scholars worked on the study for some time; as Harzig's illness progressed, Donna Gabaccia completed parts of the work. Thus, three leading historians collaborated on this interdisciplinary approach to migration history.

The authors emphasize the range of perspectives on migration. They identify "popular views" in societies of settlement that centered on immigration and assimilation, focused on westward movement, ignored gender and race, and treated much of the world as sedentary and immobile. Second, they present scholarly views as advancing from such popular conceptions to more comprehensive views after the 1960s. But even at the start of the twenty-first century, they argue that scholars have yet to account for the realities of "migrant practices." Thus, when scholars from the 1990s focused on "transnationalism," migrants were dealing with increasingly restrictive practices of states. [End Page 577]

The book's strongest chapter focuses on theories of migration and cultural interaction. It is probably the most wide-ranging review so far, in that it addresses theories developed and applied over two centuries. The bibliography and endnotes survey major English-language writings on migration, with some citations in other languages. The review of theory shows how studies of migration have been segmented by region, time period, and social situation. To reaffirm and expand the authors' point: there is a need for more comparison of migration over time, more attention to the big literature on forced migration, and more attention to biological studies of migration in other species. One example is the continued segmentation of the literature on slavery and slave trade: this large and substantial literature, full of important implications for study of social change generally, has not yet been treated as part of the migration literature.

The authors make a special effort to advance the theorization of gender in migration. They succeed in emphasizing the importance of gender as a factor, if not in theorizing specifically gendered components of migration. In the course of their discussion, however, they unfairly stigmatize the work of the present reviewer as privileging males over females in the study of migration. "Patrick Manning has presented a typology that asserts male predominance among cross-community migrants . . . migrations he sees as fundamental drivers of conflict, of accommodation, and thus of change in world history" (p. 120). In effect they allege that this work takes no account of "the gendering of human movements" (p. 121). Surely the point of migration analysis should not be to try to maximize the number of female long-distance migrants in the past, but to explore the similarities and distinctions in migration experience by gender and to show the participation in migratory processes both of migrants and those who did not migrate. 1

The Harzig-Hoerder narrative of human migratory human history takes the form of a condensed chapter of some forty pages (half from human origins to 1600, half from 1600 to the present). It is an admirable effort, though centering too much on lists of movements and not enough on the accompanying social changes. But to restate general references to "women" or "women and men" about once each page of [End Page 578] the narrative is to restate a basic fact of life rather than to conduct a gendered analysis.

As a framework for appropriate theorization, the authors propose a "systems approach." Their system is an effort to describe and model all the aspects of migration in terms of successive stages of a migration process: migration decisions, societies of departure, voyages, receiving societies...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8050
Print ISSN
1045-6007
Pages
pp. 577-579
Launched on MUSE
2011-09-04
Open Access
No
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