Migration: Conceptual Review

In my blog post today, I will attempt to analyze migration in theory and practice.

My upcoming articles will be about theories of migration, the relationship between gender, food and identity and the role of cuisine in the interaction among migrants and host communuties.

My blog series will cover a major literature on migration, gender and migration, food and migration and I will put the bibliography at the end of the series in the upcoming weeks..

Migration has been one of the most important events of the 21st century. Migration is caused by a complex combination of social, cultural and economic and political factors like globalization and violent conflicts in the world. Dealing with this migration heterogeneity and its impact is one of the most significant challenges of today.

It is known that after World War I, migration has become an international issue. The growing number of migrants internally and externally leads to the transformation of the culture of migrant actors as a result of the interaction process that they experience in the hosting cultures. The women in this cultural interaction process have an important function through their roles in food culture of the host places.

Turkey has hosted ten thousands of Syrian refugees since the onset of the civil war in Syria in 2011. The war in Syria has caused thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in other countries and Turkey has been the country who has hosted great numbers of Syrians. This article firstly defines what migration is.

Migration in Theory and Practice

In terms of definition migration can be defined as the moving of a person or a group of persons, either across an international boundary, or within a state territory. It can be regarded as a population movement, involving any kind of movement of people. There exist migration of refugees, economic migrants, displaced people and persons moving for some other goals (Perruchoud& Redpath-Cross, 2011: 62-63).

Migration can be described as the relocation and mobility of people across a region. This phenomenon known to be as old as human history. Joseph Fichter underlines that history is full of migration movements (2004: 181). It has occured in almost every society, and we know that the phenomenon of migration has always drawn attention of scholars and thinkers.

Migration: Conceptual Review

Migration was first coined as an academic term in the 1800s. A geographer called Georg Ravenstein prepared two papers for Royal Statistical Society entitled “Migration Laws” (Abadan-Unat, 2002). Lee (1966: 49) defines migration as a permanent or semi-permanent change of residence. It is noteworthy to state that the great majority of border crossings do not necessarily mean migration. Migration means taking up residence for a certain minimum time period (Castles, 2000: 270). The most apparent cause of migration is the disparity in levels of employment, income and social well-being between differing areas because of the perceived differences in the conditions of living or working in two geographical places (Ibid: 272). Another decisive aspect of migration which is also interdependent on one of the economic causes is the migration from rural places to big cities depending on the industrialization of societies (Tekeli, 1975: 159). With the increase in mechanization in agriculture with the developing technology, many people working in the field of agriculture have migrated as a result of increasing unemployment (Karpat, 1978: 7).

On the other hand, Lee (1966: 50) argues that the the motivation of the migration has got four parameters:

  • Factors associated with the region of origin
  • Factors related with the region of destination
  • Intervening blockages
  • Personal parameters


It is known that, the research area of migration issues offers many levels of analysis. Four different questions have been analyzed in the discipline: the origins of migration; the directionality of migration flows; the utilization of immigrant labor; and the socio-cultural adaptation of migrant people (Portes, 1999). The term “international migration” encompasses a wide range of population movement. In terms of historical context, international migration can be analyzed through some time periods. Firstly, in the beginning of the modern period (1870-1914) the probability of a better life and as a consequence of liberal immigration policies, there has been a radical increase on labor movement (Ertekin and Dural, 2013: 49). From the middle of the 19th century until early years of the 20th century, in the industrialization era in Europe, around 50.000 people emigrated from Europe.

It is known that despite the existence of population movements from very beginning of human history, the issue of mass migration is relatively new modern phenomena which came into being after the mass population movements in Europe. With the globalization wave international migration has also got intensified.

On the other hand, there are many causes behind migration. As noted earlier, the primary reasons behind migration are that of economic issues. An important reason for migration is the high levels of hunger and injustice seen in income distribution. People who do not have sufficient income first migrate from villages to towns, and if they cannot find a job there, the places of migration are gradually determined as metropolitan cities and finally outside the country. Another reason of migration is related with wars and terrorism. Physical attacks on the civilian people, mass killings and heavy chemical weapons make people to go away from their homes and go to secure places.

In terms of the consequences of migration, it is noteworthy to state that migration leads to social and economic transformations. According to Koçak and Terzi, the results of migration are as follows:

  • Deficiencies in educational health services and infrastructure services
  • Slums and crooked urbanization
  • Disparity in population distribution
  • The rapid increase of the population in the place of migration, but the dilution of the population in the place of migration
  • Cultural conflicts at the end of migrations

My next article will cover theories of migration, the concepts of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

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