Without any doubt, migration and its consequences has become one of the most salient social problems over the last few decades. Whereas migration to the Netherlands in the 1950s boomed in response to an increasing demand in labor force to contribute to the generation of wealth in a post-war era, at present pessimist voices that debate the economic as well as cultural costs of immigration seem to dominate public discourse. At the same time, a non-negligible share in the literature juxtaposes such positions and consider migration as beneficial for advanced industrialized societies. Many positions and opinions on migration and how it shapes Western societies are not always well-informed, neglecting a spate of recent studies that document the costs and benefits of migration for Western societies. The aim of this course is to debunk some popular ideas about migration by critically reviewing scientific evidence of how migration influences Western societies. The study is designed around approximately ten leading questions that dominate not only public discourse, but also social science research. Combined, they allow you to have a balanced view on migration and its consequences for contemporary societies. At the end of this course, you are able (1) to describe why immigration is a social problem, (2) to describe what drives migration to Western societies, (3) to describe the origins of prejudice towards immigrants, (4) to describe how immigration affects society, (5) describe mechanisms of immigrant incorporation, and (6) apply the theories and the insights of the course to a current phenomenon concerning diversity and community.|
The set-up of the sessions are combined lectures and discussions. In the first 45 minutes, the main controversies in public debates as well as the academic literature is being reviewed, going beyond the weekly reading. In the subsequent 45 minutes, there is active discussion inspired by the weekly reading.
Grading is based on reflection upon the weekly reading (50%) and a final paper in the format of a blog post (50%). The primary goal of reflections upon the weekly reading actively engage with the assigned readings ahead of the lecture. The final paper will be a blog contribution concerning migration or its consequences for advanced industrialized societies in the format of popular scientific blog, such as the Monkey Cage or LSE's Europp blog.
For non-LAS students the number of places in this course is limited. For registration, please contact Gerwin van der Laan (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least three weeks prior to the start of the course.
An active interest in sociology and social problems
Completed the first year of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Skepticism about migration to Western societies is repeatedly expressed in public debates. During his primary campaign, Donald Trump defended building a wall between Mexico and the United States, and tried to push a ban on Muslim migration. Across Western Europe, the asylum crisis, spurred by the atrocities in the Middle East, pushed the limits of solidarity to political refugees. In tandem, the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, linked to Islamic State, have increased negative sentiments towards immigrants. Also among social scientists, vivid debates take place about whether migration lowers the social fabric. For instance, Harvard professor Robert Putnam (2007, p. 142) recently argued that “diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us.” Yet, empirical findings for Europe don’t always catch up to the American findings.
The aim of this course is to discuss how migration affects advanced industrialized societies. To do so, the weekly sessions are organized around questions that are widely spread among public opinion. These questions boil down into five big streams: (1) Migration as a social problem (one session); (2) The determinants of migration to Western societies (two sessions); (3) Prejudice towards immigrants (two sessions); (4) The effects of immigration on social cohesion outcomes (three sessions); (5) The incorporation of immigrants (two sessions). An additional theoretical session on a topic that you find salient is planned as well; the idea is that in the first half of the course, you submit a topic that appeals to you. This topic will be discussed in great detail in the final class. Next to the regular sessions, two ex cathedra activities are organized, namely a visit to the Red Star Line (migration) museum in Antwerp (Belgium), and a computer lab session that facilitates the final assignment, which is applying insights from the course on a contemporary topic related to the course theme in an online published blog.
A series of research articles and chapters from books will be made available at the beginning of the course (cf. syllabus).