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Migration, Ethnicity, and the State

27 to 29 March 2015 at Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

co-organized by the UoC Forum ‘Ethnicity as a Political Resource’, Cologne, Germany and the Center of Urban Studies, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou

Migration of people from one region to another is a phenomenon that stretches back through human history. Globalization has put the relocation of people in an international focus and has made the matter of ethnic identity, belonging, and the handling of national and international policy frameworks highly discussed topics. As the diverse reactions of people and governments to international and internal migration show, we still do not have sufficient knowledge of variations in the political importance of ethnicity in this context today as well as in previous historical periods. In this conference, we attempt to develop a comprehensive understanding of the interrelation of migration, ethnicity, and the state by addressing it from three different angles:

1. What role does migration play in the processes of ethnogenesis, and how can we locate diaspora groups within this context, viewed in different regional and historical contexts?

2. Are there visible ethnic migration patterns and governmental regulations concerning migration?

3. In which ways do governments differentiate between population groups regarding their access to rights and privileges?

For this endeavor we invite scholars from diverse disciplines and global regions to interact in three consecutive roundtable discussions, and to jointly develop a comprehensive approach to the role of ethnicity in the context of migration and national policy frameworks.

27 March 2015

9.00-9.30 Welcoming Remark and Conference Opening
                  JIN Wang
(Dean of the Department of Sociology and Social work, SYSU)
                  LI Xi Yuan
(Sun Yat-Sen University)
                  Michaela Pelican (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity')

Panel 1: Migration, diaspora and ethnogenesis

9.30-10.00 Keynote Panel 1:
                     CHAN Kwok-Bun (Chan Institute of Social Studies (CISS)): Seven identities: New theoretical                               toughts on the construction of Chineseness among long-settled Australian-born Chinese

Current anthropological case studies as well as historical research have shown that migration often leads to the genesis of ethnic groups. For example, accounts of mythical migration play an important role in narratives about primordiality, and myths of common origin are taken as constitutive for the formation of ethnic groups. The latter are also employed in political struggles, and are often invoked in individual and collective strife for resources. This panel aims to explore, if and how diaspora groups contribute to ethnogenesis and how they may use ethnicity as a political resource. Furthermore, transnational network patterns and transnational strategies of diaspora groups merit a more profound attention; because we believe that the different ways they are being used (or not) represent a significant factor in gaining (or loosing) access to several kinds of resources. While looking at these patterns of mobility and the groups involved, as well as the active use of resources, we also want to take into account the framing factors that intersect with them, especially kinship, gender, and class.

This panel will focus on the following subjects:

  • The relationship of migration, diaspora, and ethnogenesis nowadays as well as in the past; especially if they lead to the use of ethnicity as a political resource.
  • Cases in which migration has led to the loosening and disappearance of ethnicities.
  • The interaction between different groups with a migration background, and how they have employed their migration history and/or (alleged) primordiality to position themselves strategically vis-à-vis each other.
  • If and how diaspora groups contribute to ethnogenesis and how they may use ethnicity as a political resource.


Albert Manke (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity as a Political Resource'): Chinese in the Cuban revolution: An ethnically marked political mobilization?
Goolam Vahed (University of Kwazulu Natal): Ethnicity, identity, and belonging: perspectives on Indian South Africans 1860-1914 
Guillermo Wilde (Universidad Nacional de San Martín): Resettlement policy in the colonial borderlands of Iberian empires. Ethnocide, ethnification, ethnogenesis?
Mark Wong (University of Northern British Columbia): Constructing authenticity: a case of Chinese cultural space establishment in a Canadian prairie city


13.00-14.00 Lunch

Panel 2:  (Im)migrant populations, urban spaces, and the state

14.00-14.30 Keynote Panel 2:                   
                      LIANG Zai
(University at Albany): The rise of emigration from China and the renaissance of                                  sociology of immigration

This panel focuses on the role of ethnicity and the state in the context of internal and international migration. We invite contributions that engage with governmental strategies to channel and shape domestic as well as cross-border movement and to influence the ethnic composition of the national population by legal, social, and other means. We discuss the application of policies of immigration and/or nationality; for instance, when the respective legal frameworks have been altered or are in the process of being amended. Equally, space will be given to discuss migrants’ strategies in reaction to state power and efforts to evade state interventions. Other possible issues are the formation of ethnically segregated neighborhoods in major cities due to internal and or international migration. Here as well, we want to address the relationship between ethnic migration patterns and governmental regulations.

This panel will address the following topics:

  • Ethnic organization and identity formation of migrants in urban spaces
  • Rural to urban migration: emergence of ethnic enclaves in major cities?
  • Ethnic conflicts, migration policy, and the state
  • Policy strategies to differentiate between desired and unwanted immigrants
  • Does ethnicity matter? How states consider origin or culture when they intervene in the recruitment of (domestic, agricultural, highly skilled) labor migrants
  • Legal frameworks of migrant admission, residence, and access to nationality
  • Policing across borders: Consequences of immigration policies for sending regions or neighboring countries
  • Strategies of migrant actors vis-a-vis immigration restrictions


Cynthia Pizarro (University of Buenos Aires): Migration policy and state control mechanisms: Bolivia-Argentina
Tobias Schwarz (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity as a Political Resource'): Nationality law in Germany today: no ethnic exclusivity anymore?
Sofie Steinberger (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity as a Political Resource'): Spanish migration and border politics put to test - the case of Melilla
XU Tao  (Sun Yat-Sen University): Economic benefits, social location and shared identity construction: Africans and Chinese
LI Xi Yuan (Sun Yat-Sen University): Cultural Diplomacy and Africa Students going to China’s Colleges

28 March 2015

Panel 3: Ethnic minorities and social governance

9.00-9.30 Keynote Panel 3:               
                  Michaela Pelican (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity'): Ethnicity, indigeneity and minority rights: the indigenous                    rights movement in Africa

This panel focuses on the political management of ethnic diversity in the context of state building and state consolidation processes. The presentations will address different examples of the interplay and/or conflict between the state and non-majoritarian ethnic groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They discuss the question of the legal and political recognition of ethnic minorities as well as the ways in which minority groups try to use legal and political frameworks for their own benefit. An additional thematic focus will be the shaping of intellectual discourses regarding the official and social categorization of nationality/nationalities (both in History and Anthropology) and its diffusion and popularization by the (mass) media.

This panel will address the following topics:

  • Legal recognition of ethnic minorities (constitutional law, legislative implementation, administrative practices)
  • Policy frameworks with regard to nationalities/ethnic minorities 
  • Strategies of social and political participation of ethnic minority groups
  • The role of anthropologists/historians in the categorization of ethnic difference and its political implications (institutional practices, criticism and debates inside the disciplines)
  • The role of the media


Anja Becker (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity as a Political Resource'): Ethnicity and Gender: being and becoming Pokot men and women
LIANG Yucheng (Sun Yat-Sen University): T.b.a.
Antonio Sáez-Arance (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity as a Political Resource'): Complicating the ‘pacification’: central European settlers and the Mapuche conflict
TAN Tongxue (Sun Yat-Sen University): Territorial segmented citizenship, ethnic immigrant, and social governance transformation in China
ZHANG Guoxiong (Sun Yat-Sen University): T.b.a.
Kees van der Waal (Stellenbosch University): Essentialist and performative categories of exclusion and inclusion: transformations of ethnicity in Southern Africa

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-16.00 General Discussion

16.00-16.30 Closing Remarks
                       Li Xi Yuan (Sun Yat-Sen University), Albert Manke (UoC Forum 'Ethnicity')