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Cultural Migration
Where did you come from and why?

Coming to terms with diversity in an increasingly interconnected multicultural world has become one of the most pressing public policy projects for democracies in the early 21st century. The wide-scale movement of people is as much a defining feature of globalization as the movement of goods, services, and capital. And countries are just as reluctant-if not more so-to open their borders to people as to those items. As with trade and capital, citizens fear that their culture and their jobs are susceptible to being eliminated by uncontrolled immigration.

At the same time, again as with free trade and investment, economies and societies need input from outside their borders in order to continue economic growth. Furthermore, some countries, most importantly the United States, are committed to open borders because of the nature of their national identity as a mix of different immigrant groups. European countries are less open to immigration and significant social conflict has developed between native citizens and new arrivals, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East. Even countries that send migrants to other countries and benefit from the remittances they send back are concerned about "brain drain" that may limit their development in their home county. Nevertheless, migration will be a major, unstoppable fact of global life until the economic disparities between sending and receiving states are eliminated, if ever. Even when goods, services, or capital can be blocked by government action, the smuggling of human beings and the resulting population of illegal immigrants in host countries is a common feature of developed countries.

Sociologists have long analyzed migration in terms of the "push-pull" model. This model differentiates between push factors that drive people to leave home from pull factors that attract migrants to a new location. Push factors occur within sending states, that is, those that send migrants abroad, while pull factors occur within receiving states, that is, states that receive immigrants from sending states abroad. Push factors are negative aspects of the sending country, while pull factors are positive aspects of the receiving country. In fact, these differentiating factors are really two sides of the same coin. In moving migrants must not only see a lack of benefits at home (push factors) but also a surplus of benefits abroad (pull factors), otherwise the move would not be worthwhile. There are also more ambiguous factors, called network factors that can either facilitate or deter migration. As mentioned above, network factors include cost of travel, the ease of communication, and international business trends. These factors are not related to a specific country, but still have a profound effect on international migration.

Push factors come in many forms. Sometimes these factors leave people with no choice but to leave their country of origin. Following are some examples of push factors driving people to emigrate from their home country. 1) Lack of Jobs/Poverty: Economics provides the main reason behind migration. In some countries jobs simply do not exist for a great deal of the population. In others, the gap between the rewards of labor in the sending and receiving country are great enough so as to warrant a move. 2) Civil Strife/War/Political and Religious Persecution: Some migrants are impelled to cross national borders by war or persecution at home. Some of these migrants end up in receiving countries as refugees or asylum seekers. The 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defined the qualifications for such migrants and bound signatory countries not to return these newcomers to places where they could be persecuted. 3) Environmental Problems: Environmental problems and natural disasters often cause the loss of money, homes, and jobs.

Whereas push factors usually drive migrants out of their countries of origin, pull factors generally decide where these travelers end up. The positive aspects of some receiving countries serve to attract more migrants than others. Following are some examples of the pull factors attracting migrants to receiving countries. 1) Higher standards of living/Higher wages: Economics provide the both biggest push and pull factor for potential migrants. People moving to more developed countries will often find that the same work they were doing at home can be rewarded abroad with higher wages. 2) Labor Demand: Almost all developed countries have found that they need migrants' labor. 3) Political and Religious Freedom: Throughout history the have faced persecution or discrimination in most parts of the world.

A third somewhat specialized catagory of migrate are Forced Migrants (Trafficked people). These are people who are moved by deception or coercion for the purposes of exploitation. The profit in trafficking people comes not from their movement, but from the sale of their sexual services or labour in the country of destination. The trafficked person may be physically prevented from leaving, or be bound by debt or threat of violence to themselves or their family in their country of origin. Like smuggling, by its very clandestine nature, figures on the number of people being trafficked are extremely difficult to obtain.

The economic effects of migration vary widely. Sending countries may experience both gains and losses in the short term but may stand to gain over the longer term. For receiving countries temporary programs help to address skills shortages but may decrease domestic wages and add to public welfare burden. "While every mouth brings a pair of hands, these hands sometimes make more than they eat and sometimes less," noted a writer in the Financial Times. Nevertheless, most commentators argue that the net effects of migration are generally positive. The Economist magazine, for example, claimed that loosening restrictions on labor migration "would be one of the fastest ways to boost global economic growth." The positive effects, they say, would be significantly greater than removal of any trade barriers. For sending countries, the short-term economic benefit of emigration is found in remittances. According to the Financial Times, remittances worldwide are estimated at $60-70 billion per year, larger than development aid given to poor countries. At the same time, developing countries can suffer from "brain drain"-the loss of trained and educated individuals to emigration, an example of the possible negative effects of emigration for developing countries.

In his message for the 91st World Day of Migrants and Refugees , Pope John Paul II (bio - news) remarks that while immigrants seek to adjust to the culture of a new society, the society should also help them with that transition. At a time when human migration is at an unprecedented level, the Pope says that "individuals must seek the proper balance between respect for their own identity and recognition of that of others." That principle applies to both the immigrant and the welcoming society, he explains. The Pontiff calls for a balanced between the "assimilationist model," in which all immigrants are expected to submerge themselves into the local culture; and the "marginalization of immigrants, with attitudes that can even arrive at the choice of apartheid." The best solution, he says, is one which respects different cultural traditions, and accepts legitimate differences out of respect for others.

Related Links:
Historians and the Web: A Beginners Guide

Reading, Writing, and Researching for History.
A Guide for College Students

Professor Rael's guide includes sound advice on how to go about historical research, but only in general terms and as part of a larger discussion of the skills undergraduates need for all phases of studying history. A number of sites take a more closely focused approach, teaching the basic steps of doing historical research. Two, which were created in connection with college courses on historical methods, stand out as noteworthy examples of how to do so through the use of case studies:

Why Study History Through Primary Sources
Fordham University, Medieval Sourcebook:

The Historian's Sources American Memory Project Learning Page

For further suggestions check the site Finding Primary Sources
prepared by Gretchen Revie of the Lawrence University Library.

Although you should begin your search for primary sources in traditional sites like libraries, the Internet, on which more and more electronic archives appear all the time, offers another possible avenue of approach. For a sampling, see the listings on the Electronic Archives page of this web site. Collections of recorded interviews, or "oral histories," provide another new source of primary materialsfor more recent times, as do collections of photographs and documentary films.

For more information on Oral history, see the University of California at Berkeley One Minute Guide to Oral History.

Using Historical Sources

How to Read a Primary Source

The Library catalogs listed below are available to all.

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