The overall intellectual purpose of the Workshop is to improve the links between international migration theory and broader social theory. It builds on the international, interdisciplinary collaboration  established through the Social Transformation and International Migration in the 21st Century Project (STIM). The project is based at the University of Sydney, and is led by Professor Stephen Castles. It contributes to the development of social scientific knowledge through analysing the relationship between neo-liberal globalisation and human mobility, and understanding how global processes are mediated through specific national and local social and cultural experiences. Using a mixed methods and multi-scalar approach, the project examines four countries that have experienced significant social transformation and migration since the 1970s: South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and Australia. This 5-year project is funded by the Australia Research Council. It includes fieldwork by five University of Sydney doctoral candidates, and close partnerships with leading researchers in the four countries.

The first specific objective of the Workshop is to provide an interdisciplinary interchange of leading social scientists working on international migration and diversity issues from Australia and several other countries. The workshop will also involve early career researchers and postgraduate students, and representatives from the Policy Innovation, Research and Evaluation Unit (PIREU) of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The Workshop will be a forum to examine key issues in the relationship between social transformation and international migration, and to discuss possible policy implications of these findings. The interdisciplinary workshop will involve scholars working at the intersections of a range of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, anthropology, geography, political economy, law, international relations and development studies.

A second objective of the workshop is to produce a co-authored interdisciplinary publication by University of Sydney scholars from several departments (including doctoral candidates), as well as Australian and overseas partners, to be published as a book or a special issue of one of the following journals:International Sociology, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, or International Migration Review. Finally, the workshop aims to build long-term partnerships not only between Australian social science researchers, but also with leading academics from universities in Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, and the UK.

Research cooperation with international partners is already well-established. Prof Castles has spent time at all the research centres or universities named in the application. In 2012, both Prof Castles and three University of Sydney doctoral students were hosted by these centres, which are providing help in background research and fieldwork planning, and mentoring for our students. The Korean partners, through the Korean International Migration Association (KIMA) hosted (and funded) a workshop to showcase the STIM project on 17 September 2012, with Prof Castles as keynote speaker. KIMA is also translating into Korean the 4th edition of the book The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World by Prof Castles and Mark Miller. Prof Castles has presented research seminars at the two Turkish partner universities, Oxford University and the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico. The cooperation with the International Migration Institute (IMI, University of Oxford) is concerned with enhancing theory and methodology, and includes Prof Castles’ participation in two IMI projects. It is important to bring our partners to Australia in 2013 for a workshop. This will make it possible to include other Australian colleagues in the collaborative work, to plan new collaborative projects and to sustain our network.

Rationale and relevance

The relationship between current social transformations linked to globalisation, the changing nature of human mobility and the development of transnational identities are crucial themes for contemporary social sciences. Challenges to ethnic balances and national identity are key  issues in all the countries concerned. The Workshop will make an important contribution both to social theory and to the methodology of transnational research. The STIM project’s conceptual framework and methodology for transnational research are based on linked multi-scalar research at the global, national and local levels. By working closely with Australian and international partners, we are able to participate in debates on research strategies for moving beyond methodological nationalism and developing new approaches to transnational research. Our joint work with international partners helps to influence the development of social theory and methodology in four continents.

The topic is of great relevance for policy formation. Workshop participants, including Prof Castles, Ellie Vasta, Hye-Kyung Lee and, Hein de Haas, have worked with PIREU / DIAC in examining the meaning of changing migration patterns for Australian policy and society. Sydney doctoral students  (namely Chulhyo Kim and Derya Ozkul) prepared papers and participated in a PIREU workshop in Canberra in November 2011. Through the STIM network, all the doctoral students have prepared  papers for the Korean Migration Research and Training Centre (a partnership of the Korean Government, local government and the International Organisation for Migration (Geneva). Prof Castles is a member of the Advisory Board of this body. The Mexican participant, Prof Raul Delgado Wise, holds a UNESCO chair devoted to the analysis of international migration and its relevance for economic, social and cultural development. All the overseas partners serve as  advisors to their governments and to civil society.