Between the Family and the Global: Managing Population Migration to Western Europe in an Age of Globalization, 1945–90

AHA Session 272
Sunday, January 10, 2016: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Room M101 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level)
Tara Zahra, University of Chicago
Rita C-K Chin, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Session Abstract

One in ten residents of the European Union are migrants, and since the 1970s, the majority of new migrants are classified as “family members” – at least in continental, Western Europe. Yet as this panel demonstrates, both the various European policies towards “family migration” and the very categories they seem to reference – such as “the family” and “Europe” – have been deeply contested, challenged, and reworked since the end of World War II. This panel analyzes the state and non-state, local and transnational actors who shaped family migration in Western Europe from the mid-1940s to the late 1980s – a period when ostensibly “temporary” labor flows obscured the globalization of European migration and the development of new population policies.

The papers in this session show how multiple dynamics intersected in determining population migration policies: not only labor market regulations, but also demographic policies, internal security policies, national identities and changing expectations about gender and family. These papers show that the content of “family migration” was not self-evident, but rather contested within and between states. They analyze the instruments at states’ disposal for population migration regulations, which, beside residency permits, included family allowances, educational policies, and return programs. Finally, all of the papers emphasize the importance of European integration for understanding population migration policies and argue that migration regulation was a key site for producing definitions of “Europe” in the postwar period. 

We expect a lively debate to ensue because the panelists take different positions on how to best understand these entangled processes of regulating population migration and constructing European identity. Michael Kozakowski argues that transnational flows around the Mediterranean are a key site for defining the boundaries of Europe and what it meant to be European. Emmanuel Comte analyzes debates between European states and the frequent divergences between France and Germany. He argues in favor of a deracialized historiographical perspective, in which the determinants of states’ actions are not race, but demographic density, labor market situations, and security interests. In contrast, Lauren Stokes argues that racialized thinking became significantly more important over time, particularly in the period of migration closure after 1973 and increased concern about “integration.” Moreover, the papers complement each other by adopting different levels of analysis and different methods (the case study, the comparison, the transnational perspective), while sustaining focus on the two largest countries of immigration in Western Europe: France and Germany.

Tara Zahra, a distinguished historian of nationalism, children, and family migration in postwar Europe chairs the panel. Rita Chin, a specialist on the guest worker question in postwar Germany and on multiculturalism in Europe, especially through the lenses of race and gender, acts as the commentator. These two historians bring their own expertise on how best to explain postwar European migration policies, in order to foster a lively debate among the presenters and with the audience, for a session at the crossroads of the main debates in migration history.

See more of: AHA Sessions