Transformations over Time or Sudden Change:
Historical Perspectives on Mass Migrations and Human Lives

  • Dirk Hoerder
Keywords: Transcultural, Transregional, Translocal


Both migrations and attitudes towards them have deep historical roots. To pronounce the present migration and the economic crisis triggered by derivative bankers in the fall of 2008 as “new without historical precedent” overlooks the impact of patterns of the past on the present and prevents an understanding being reached of continuities and comparisons. It is not migrants who are “uprooted”, as some would have it, but historical memory is deliberately being uprooted. This essay starts by addressing the multiple problems of present-day debates about migration and historicising the perspectives. It critiques the anti-immigrant ascriptions, labels and ideologies. It goes on to present the data and discuss the geographies of migrant trajectories in the context of translocal, transregional, transnational and global connectivity. An integrative Transcultural Societal Studies approach will be proposed. The essay will then deal with migrant agency, that is the actions of migrants, criticising “victimization” approaches and argue that Otherness is a resource as well as a framework for exploitation. Remittances will serve as an example of the intersection between migrant agency and states’ needs. The conclusion will briefly place the present in the context of global inequalities, of the economic aspect and of anti-immigrantism, as well as the ideological national-essentialist aspect.
How to Cite
Hoerder, D. 2012. Transformations over Time or Sudden Change:Historical Perspectives on Mass Migrations and Human Lives. Comparative Population Studies. 37, 1-2 (May 2012). DOI: