Edited by Carlos Vargas-Silva
Chapter 3: Migration, Methods and Innovation: A Reconsideration of Variation and Conceptualization in Research on Foreign Workers
David Bartram There is a methodological balancing act to be performed by researchers who hope to produce something genuinely innovative. On the one hand, one’s work must not depart too wildly from the practice of established scholars in the field. On the other hand, there is little to be gained from merely repeating and recapitulating their creations; one can hardly accomplish something innovative if one doesn’t try to break – or at least reshape – the mould that has crystallized around the dominant perspectives in a field. Go too far in one direction and one’s work is likely to be irrelevant, even unnoticed; go too far in the other and one’s role becomes that of an apostle or acolyte. The institutional production and reproduction of academic researchers probably reinforce the second tendency. One who spends years reading and writing about a particular topic, especially in the context of a PhD programme, might come to take certain ideas for granted. Pressures for specialization and disciplinary identification might fortify this tendency even after one has acquired a stable job. A professional scholarly perspective undoubtedly brings advantages relative to the common sense understandings of informal observers, but there are potential costs as well. In this context, a serious and sustained engagement with research methods can be a mechanism for innovation. This chapter argues that consideration of some core principles of social science research methods is likely to catalyse some productive thinking on a number of migrationrelated topics. The discussion here highlights two aspects of migration...
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