Evolution of gender and migration scholarship and its challenge

by Ayano Tsukada

Gender, the socially constructed role of and relationship between women and men, is deeply related to our lives. Our thoughts and our behavior are very affected by gender. Migration is not an exception here. In the article published in 2000, the sociologist Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo argues: “We now have a clear understanding that migration is gendered and that gender relations change with migration processes” (116). Women and men take different jobs in destination countries, use their money differently, and so on. Migration is also gendered and gendering. It is very important for researchers to know how and to what extent the lives of migrants are affected by gender. Without taking gender into account, we can easily misdescribe the whole picture of migration.

Sociological scholarship on gender and migration has a relatively short history.

In the late 1970s, women were depicted in the migration process and became a subject of many studies, however, scholars at the time only focused on women and men or only on the experience of women. They presented women migrants as a special case.

By the late 1980s, the evidence had grown large enough to require redrawing the map of gender and migration scholarship and then, theoretical formulation emerged. Scholars started to look at household economy as a critical site for revealing the relationship between migration and women, but still they were considering men as household heads and by doing so, they limited the data on women. At this point, the scholars studied men and women separately.

By the mid-1990s, the effective use of qualitative methods to understand the dynamics of gender and migration emerged and the new scholarship showed how migration processes are related to the social construction of gender.

From above, we can see the shift of sociological scholarship on gender and migration from the emphasis on documenting and explaining the gendered character of migration towards exploring its gendering effects.

In spite of this progress, many studies often degrade gender analyses to the level of the family or household and let scholars to ignore gender in other domains of the migration process.

There are still some parts that are missing in gender and migration studies. For instance, there are very few data on the consequences of women’s migration while there are many studies on the effect of men’s migration on their families, their communities, and on how gender is exercised in their home countries. What happens to the men and children who left behind when their wives or mothers migrate? Does women’s migration change the gender relationship of their countries? If so, how? Is it positive or negative?

Right now, the sociological scholarship on migration is more like gender-segregated rather than gender-integrated. It is necessary to look at gender as a central element to explore unexplained phases of migration. I hope that migration Studies in the 21st century will integrate gender more than it has done in the past 30 years.


Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. (2001). Doméstica: Immigrant workers cleaning and caring in the shadows of affluence. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.

Afsar, Risa. (2011). Contextualizing Gender and Migration in South Asia: Critical Insights. Retrieved from http://gtd.sagepub.com/content/15/3/389 on 25th May, 2013

You Might Be a Sociologist if …

by Robert Moorehead

In the WW Norton blog Everyday Sociology, Peter Kaufman lists the 41 reasons he’s a sociologist, writing “I am a Sociologist Because …

The list reads like something straight from my week 1 Introduction to Sociology lecture. Has he been spying on my classes, or am I just that unoriginal?

Kaufman hopes the list will help people see the importance of identifying as sociologists. I imagine a meeting of Sociologists Anonymous, where scholars come out of the closet and admit their afflictions. “My name is Robert, and I’m a sociologist. It’s been 2 weeks since my last analysis.”

As Kaufman writes, “it wouldn’t hurt if more people proudly proclaimed: ‘I am a sociologist because …” We’re here, we’re analytical, get used to it.

But rather than teach people why “identifying as a sociologist is important,” shouldn’t we teach people to think like sociologists (while writing better)? It’s not the identity that matters, but the perspective and the action that identity can produce.

Kaufman’s reason #33 states “I expect to transform knowledge into action and create a more just and equal world.” It’s not about who gets credit, but about the world we can create.

Here’s Kaufman’s list:

“To this list of lists I add one more: the list of what it means to be a sociologist. Beginning with the prompt: “I am a sociologist because. . . .” here is what I came up with:

  1. I am curious about the world in which I live
  2. I am fascinated by all things social
  3. I am intrigued about why people do the things they do
  4. I am interested in how people interact with each other
  5. I believe that society is a human invention and I want to know how, why, and who invents it
  6. I wonder how meanings are created
  7. I question who has the power to create social norms
  8. I realize that there may be an artificial and even arbitrary distinction between normal and deviant
  9. I am aware that my beliefs, attitudes, values, and actions are based on my social position and not some innate personality traits
  10. I recognize that the time period in which I live has also influenced my beliefs, attitudes, values, and actions
  11. I struggle to be mindful of the biases that may cloud my views
  12. I am suspicious of neat and tidy explanations
  13. I attempt to understand reality from the perspective of others
  14. I listen to the stories that people tell about their lives
  15. I observe social practices and social processes
  16. I collect and rely on data to support my assertions
  17. I focus on patterns and trends instead of on unique individual experiences
  18. I ask questions, and then ask some more, instead of accepting commonly offered answers
  19. I engage myself and those around me with inquiries about the bigger picture
  20. I try to be attentive to the interdependent web of connections that characterize our world
  21. I prefer to explain things based on structural factors rather than just pointing to individual actions
  22. I strive to understand how our lives are impacted by forces such race, gender, sexuality, social class, ability and other such variables
  23. I am angry that inequality is increasing in a world of plenty
  24. I see examples of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of inequality in the fabric of our social institutions such as the media, education, sports, health care, religion, and politics
  25. I am concerned that our inability to recognize institutional forms of oppression often results in our collective denial of such oppressions
  26. I do not stand by silently when I hear others make comments or jokes that are sexist, racist, homophobic or reflect other forms of inequality
  27. I challenge taken-for-granted assumptions that perpetuate inequality, oppression, and injustice
  28. I refuse to accept the social order as natural, inherent, and “just the way it is”
  29. I reject the notion that the status quo is permanent, stable, and everlasting
  30. I maintain that the only thing that is permanent is the impermanence of the world in which we live
  31. I endeavor to be socially aware so that I may see things that others may not recognize
  32. I use my sociological knowledge to deflect harm not cause it
  33. I expect to transform knowledge into action and create a more just and equal world
  34. I am committed to fostering positive social change
  35. I think about sociological ideas
  36. I read sociological books
  37. I study sociological theories and concepts
  38. I write sociological essays and papers
  39. I discuss sociological themes
  40. I encourage others to embrace the sociological perspective
  41. I act like a sociologist by engaging in the behaviors on this list.”