Chapter 1: The ‘epistemic turn’ in immigration policy analysis
Theories of public policy have undergone something of an ‘epistemic turn’ over the past decade, and immigration policy analysis has been no exception to this trend. Numerous contributions have explored the role of expert knowledge and research in immigration and integration policy making, and in public political debate. This chapter will explore this epistemic turn, examining its origins, key findings and the implications of this type of analysis for immigration policy studies. The chapter begins by considering some of the reasons for the new focus on the role of knowledge in policy, a preoccupation that is shared by researchers spanning the fields of political science, international relations, sociology, and science and technology studies. The chapter then goes on to review some of the recent literature on the role of knowledge in immigration policy, and outlines the main findings. Most studies have concluded that research plays a very limited role in public debate and policy making in this area, although there are some differences between countries, across sub-areas, and over time. The chapter examines some of the possible reasons for the neglect of research in immigration policy. It argues that, in order to understand this finding, we need more thorough cross-sectoral analysis to identify what distinguishes immigration policy from other policy areas. I will suggest some of the dimensions of policy areas that might account for cross-sectoral variation. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the role of cross-sectoral comparison in immigration policy research.