Handbook of Research Methods in Migration
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Handbook of Research Methods in Migration

Edited by Carlos Vargas-Silva

Covering both qualitative and quantitative topics, the expert contributors in this Handbook explore fundamental issues of scientific logic, methodology and methods, through to practical applications of different techniques and approaches in migration research.
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Chapter 2: Migration Research between Positivistic Scientism and Relativism: A Critical Realist Way Out

Theodoros Iosifides


Theodoros Iosifides1 In this chapter, I discuss some crucial ontological and epistemological dimensions of migration research methodology that have significant repercussions on the ways migration research is designed, practised and utilised. As meta-theoretical (ontological and epistemological) dimensions are inevitably implicated and closely related with any methodological strategy in social research, including migration research, the main aim of this chapter is to highlight the consequences of positivist and relativist epistemologies for contemporary migration research methodology. Discussion starts with some central premises of contemporary scientistic positivism and relativism and continues with indicating their consequences for contemporary migration research methodology. The way out from the Scylla of scientism and the Charybdis of relativism is offered in Section 2.3 and entails the adoption of a critical realist meta-theoretical approach. This approach prioritises ontology over epistemology and can serve as a guide to substantive migration research, enhancing its explanatory power and potential. In Section 2.3, I briefly refer to some central features of the realist approach and discuss more extensively its advantages for migration research practice through concrete examples. Finally, the chapter is concluded with some brief remarks about the emancipatory and critical potential of a critical realist rationale in migration research. 2.1 WAVES OF IRREALISM, REDUCTIONISM AND ONTOLOGICAL FLATNESS: POSITIVISTIC SCIENTISM AND RELATIVISM In this section and before discussing the consequences of positivism/ scientism and various forms of contemporary relativism in migration research, I briefly refer to some of the most serious limitations of these rationales in general, notably irrealism, reductionism and ontological flatness....

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