Migration can be defined as a total or partial change of location (habitat) and/or movement into new areas for a certain period of time or forever. The term migration is widely applied in social and human sciences as well as in biology, geophysics, astronomy, and computer sciences with reference to plants and animals, fish and birds, insects and cells, planets, systems, and data.

In contemporary social and human sciences, migration interpreted as population displacement (translocation) usually is viewed as one of the four basic genres of human activity along with habita­tion, storage, and creation. The term migration is an integral part of the professional terminology of contemporary archaeologists, ethnologists, sociol­ogists, demographers, cultural anthropologists, and geographers. The sphere of its application and meaning seem to be so clear that some reference books consider definition and interpretation of this concept unnecessary.

Nevertheless more careful analysis of the appli­cation of the term migration indicates that this concept is often applied to processes as they vary along spatial and chronological scales, as well as in their ecological, economic, ethnic, and social consequences.

Migration in Social and Human Sciences

The concept of migration applies to studies of displacements of population (group and individual movements) as well as to dispersion of created artifacts and culture in general. Sometimes anthro­pological and other data indicate that culture transmission does not accompany its human sub­strate displacement; in such a case migration of ideas is assumed.

The possibility of culture migration was widely discussed in cultural anthropology at the beginning of the 20th century in the context of several schools and theories of diffusion. The notion of cultural diffusion, understood as spatial transference of cul­tural phenomena, was put forward by them; human history was interpreted as a series of cultural clashes, adoptions, and transfers. Long-distance contacts, such as international trade and exchange, conquests, and conscious imitation were regarded as basic ways by which certain cultural phenomena and/or artifacts could surmount considerable dis­tances from the point of their primary origin.

The origin and rapid upsurge of genetics during the second half of the 20th century provided the possibility of verifying a hypothesis about the translocation of ideas and artifacts without human displacement; this could be done by comparing the genetic makeups of human populations in certain areas. Such DNA spatial distribution studies, bril­liantly developed by Luigi Cavalli-Sforza at the beginning of the 21st century, have resulted in a series of gene-flow theories that have brought studies of human migrations taken in historical perspective to a higher level.

Migrations in Human History

Purposeful changes of habitat were inherent to human beings since the very origins of the species. Human dispersion over the Old World in contem­porary prehistoric sciences is interpreted as a result of migrations of early hominids and early human beings. Colonization of the New World and the European North happened at the end of the Pleistocene—at the beginning of the Holocene ias the next important example of large-scale migrations in prehistory. Human migrations often are regarded as the driving forces of agricultural dispersion in the Old World as well as the basic mechanism of Indo-European language origin and dissemination.

The origin of nomads and the formation of the nomadic mode of subsistence, strategy, and cultural morphology, as illustrated by Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, and other nomadic communities of the early Iron Age, is the next phase of human history connected with migrations. The period between 500 and 700 CE, traditionally called the Migration Period, was characterized by barbarian invasions all over Europe and was marked by the collapse of ancient world empires and a transition to a new, early feuDalí phase of human history.

Human migrations of medieval times—the Muslim conquest (the Arab migration across Asia, Europe, and Africa between 632 and 732 CE); the Turkic migration across the Middle East, Europe, and Asia (between the 6th and 11th centuries CE); the long-distance migrations of Mongol and Turkic tribes over eastern and central Europe (between the 12th and 14th centuries CE); the Ostiedlung (movement of German tribes to eastern Europe); and others—in most cases were caused by the necessity of modern ethnic and political structures to find their proper places in the early medieval community. Hence these displacements usually are mentioned among the crucial factors of the reshap­ing of medieval political structures (early and centralized states and empires), often accompanied by the origin of modern nations and the creation of the contemporary ethnopolitical map, which is well traced over Europe even today. These dis­placements also are associated with the formation of basic principles of modern geopolitics.

The era of discoveries and the Age of Exploration showed most Europeans the impressive economic potential of newly opened and intensively explored territories (e.g., America, Australia, eastern Asia, Siberia), and so the economic aspect of human migration became its dominant motivation.

The modern era has brought new impact into human migrations, connected, first of all, with displays of religious background of human migra­tion (the great Puritan migration from England to North America in the mid-17th century, the great Serb migration from the territory of the Ottoman Empire to the domain of the Habsburg monarchy from the end of 17th to the middle of the 18th centuries). In addition, the migrations of the age of imperialism and industrialization were motivated by the necessity to improve the quality of life through finding new workplaces and trade oppor­tunities (transatlantic migration of Europeans to North and South America, the mass migration of African Americans out of the southern United States during the first half of the 20th century, exploration of eastern and southern Asia).

World War II and the following cold war demonstrated the importance of the political and ideological background of human migrations based on necessity of free self-identification and self- expression.The contemporary trend in the direc­tion and motivation for human migrations resulted from the the fall of the iron curtain, the end of the cold war, and the economic problems of the devel­oping postsocialist and so-called third world coun­tries of Asia and Africa.

Problem of Causes and Motivation,
Diversity of Forms and Cultural Consequences

Migrations have been one of the basic forms of human activity since the origin of humankind, and since that time reasons, backgrounds, and motivation of human displacement have contin­ued to change in accordance with priorities and emphases of human culture and the development of various livelihoods. In contemporary social sci­ence, the problem of migration’s causes and moti­vation usually is conceptualized through a system of “push and pull” factors mediated by “barriers and obstacles.” Among the most influential push factors, one can distinguish among the restriction of subsistence resources (work shortage, low trade opportunities, low income), threats to human life (environmental disasters, poor medical care, inse­curity, armed conflicts), the impossibility of free displays of political, ethnic, and religious self­identification, and restrictions on emotional life, family links, and education. Pull factors, in con­trast, provide the possibility to overcome the restrictions imposed by push factors, and to change living conditions for the better.

The concept of human migration currently is applied to a rather wide variety of forms of human displacement that differ by their positions in space and time, by their mode of their personification, and by their motivation—whether migrators travel of their own free will or based on coercion.

Personification of Human Migration:
Group and Individual Displacements

Defining the factors underlying instances of migra­tion shows the diversity of its forms and genres; here the opposition of the individual versus the group character of migration is especially acute. History shows examples when translocations of individuals of separate families were the first steps of large group migrations, waves of which involved sometimes the population of the whole adminis­trative unit (immigration to the United States). The opposite has also occurred; in the past one can find situations when a first impressive wave of group colonization was followed only by separate individuals or was not supported at all (primary colonization of Australia).

Detection of the social, ethnic, political, reli­gious, economic, or other background of migrant groups’ formation currently is at the center of the fields of demography, cultural geography, and cultural anthropology as well as of other social sciences dealing with the causes that force people to leave their dwelling place and search for another, more suitable one. Environmental and geographic parameters of primary living space were the agen­cies of principal importance in prehistoric and pre­industrial societies, while in the contemporary world these have yielded to sociopolitical agencies.

Infiltration is a peculiar form of small-scale group migration that implies movements (often secret ones) of a restricted number of participants within a restricted time and chronological span. Usually infiltrations take place at the stage when a group is choosing its destination. Also this term could refer to attempts of small groups to cross a state border or guarded space illegally (contempo­rary Palestinian border infiltration).

Human Migration Distance Scale:
Colonizations and Relocations

The geographic and spatial dimension of migra­tions is another factor giving rise to diverse forms of this process as well as to the variety of its sociocultural implications and consequences. One can distinguish long-distance movements (or colo­nization) and comparatively rapid movements (or relocation).

Colonization is regarded as durable and in most cases long-distance and repeated (wave) movements of human collectives (never individuals) to previ­ously empty (i.e., unsettled by human beings) places. Their earliest examples in human history are the exodus of Homo habilis and Homo erectus (the first representatives of the genus Homo) from Africa, which happened at the beginning of the Pleistocene. Primary colonizations of America and Australia happened at the end of the glacial period and are regarded as the traditional examples of Upper Palaeolithic (i.e., earliest realized by ana­tomically modern humans) migrations of such a type. The times of glacial retreat and during the Holocene period had comparable results in the colonization of northern Europe: the Baltic region, Scandinavia, Greenland, and so on. Further coloni­zation processes were directed toward mastering free niches in areas already more or less intensively explored.

The general tendency and intensity of coloniza­tion processes, as well as their typical undulating, multistage, and multilevel character, opens the possibility of interpreting them as phenomena with not only historical, cultural, ethnic, and economic consequences but also geographic and ecological consequences. In such a context, colonization is one of the basic features of general human evolu­tion that causes a long-lasting effect on the land­scape structure of human natural habitats.

Relocations are regarded as relatively strictly defined in time, isolated changes of habitat real­ized by a group or by individuals with a particular purpose. This category covers the overwhelming majority of all known historical and contemporary migration cases. Even at first glance one can distin­guish at least two sorts of relocation: (1) transmi­gration, or population displacements that significantly enlarge or totally change the habitat of a particular group, and (2) movements of indi­viduals or human groups of a different genre (social, gender, cultural, ethnic, professional, etc.) within their traditional living space.

Transmigration is more likely to be the means of preserving a group’s culture in new territory but in the same ecological situation; in the case of oncoming movements, it is obviously one of the forms of ethnic contacts.

The Timescale of Human Migration

In accordance with the period during which human translocation takes place, it is possible to distinguish daily, episodic, seasonal, cyclic, and pendulous migrations and population movements with long-lasting consequences, or irretrievable migrations.

Daily migration implies traveling between resi­dence places and working places, usually marked by the notion of “daily commuting” or “pendu­lous migrations.” Daily migrations could be long distance (especially in hunter-gatherer societies and, sometimes, in contemporary highly urbanized areas and megalopolises), but in most cases trans­portation time does not exceed working time. This form of migration is practiced by the majority of the contemporary population and currently is showing a gradual but stable tendency of propor­tional growth.

The notion of episodic migration is used to define business, recreation, shopping, and other trips real­ized from one center of permanent or semiperma­nent occupation; such translocations usually are irregular and could engage different routes and paths as well as differ in their spatial scales.

Seasonal and cyclic migrations are practiced mainly by the able-bodied population moving to their temporary working places (often seasonal ones). Such translocations usually cover several months and include the possibility of return to migrants’ permanent residential place. Cyclic migra­tion recurrence can be related to employment (e.g., military service, seasonal agricultural jobs) or to peculiarities of economic cycles, which, in turn, usually are geographically and/or environmentally determined (as in the cases of horizontal migrations inherent to nomadic pastoral farming and of verti­cal migrations in other social groups”). Rural-urban and urban-rural migration also could be regarded as a special case of cyclic migration. In the case of cyclic migration, usually only part of a social group is moving, while the rest of the population (mostly women, children, and the aged) remains at the permanent or semipermanent living place.

Migration with long-lasting consequences, sometimes called irrevocable migration, usually involves long-distance movements and is accompa­nied by total changes of permanent residence of individuals or a certain group as a whole. In most cases such migration is external and stipulates dis­location not only between administrative units, but also between countries. In the case of coloniza­tion, irrevocable migration is the only source of permanent residents in newly explored territories. If displacement is directed to already inhabited and actively explored regions, most widespread forms of migration with long-lasting consequences are emigration, or leaving one’s native country to live in another, and immigration, or coming to a for­eign country to live. Neither of these last forms of migration could be declared irrevocable as far as durability of their consequences depends on peo­ple’s free will and the coercive actions of authori­ties in their former and new countries.

Human Migration as an Act of
Free Will Versus a Coercive Action

In the contemporary world, migration flows tend to be regulated by separate countries’ authorities and are also subject to international legislation. In the context of the political realities and interna­tional relations of the second half of the 20th cen­tury and the beginning of the 21st century, a series of human migrations resulting from coercive actions of national governments (forced migration) can be distinguished. These include deportation, or coer­cive expulsion imposed on foreign citizens or indi­viduals without citizenship; repatriation, or forced return to the home country of citizens who due to different (mostly unfriendly) circumstances have appeared on the territory of other countries; and expatriation, or eviction from the native country usually accompanied by denaturalization.

In contrast to migrations resulting from coercive actions of national governments and international institutions, some forms of human migrations could be regarded as acts of migrants’ own free will. Thus, re-emigration, akin to repatriation, is realized mostly on the basis of conscious choice and maintained by international legislative acts, such as the Geneva Convention on victims of war. Expatriation also could be the conscious act of protest against certain actions of the native coun­try. All forms of illegal migration are derived exclu­sively from the free will of migrants; nevertheless this free will usually has a fundamentally socio­political, economic, or religious background. Chain migration, widely applied in the contemporary immigration policy of the United States, allows foreign citizens to naturalize in the country on the basis of the acquired citizenship of their adult rela­tive. The idea of migrants’ free will expressed in their displacements is the basis of the concept of free or open migration with its emphasis on peo­ple’s freedom to move to whatever country they choose as most preferable for their self-realization. Brain drain, or emigration of highly qualified pro­fessionals in the field of fundamental and applied sciences and hi-tech, could be regarded as a special case of free migration.

Olena V. Smyntyna

See also Anthropology; Archaeology; Ecology; Economics; Evolution, Cultural; Evolution, Social; Harris, Marvin; Shakespeare’s Sonnets; White, Leslie A.

Further Readings

Anthony, D. (1990). Migration in archaeology: The baby and the bathwater. American Anthropologist, 92, 895-914.

Appleyard, R. T., & Stahl, C. (Eds.). (1988). International migration today. Paris: UNESCO; Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia, Centre for Migration and Development Studies.

Brettell, C. B., & Hollifield, J. (Eds.). (2000). Migration theory: Talking across disciplines. London: Routledge.

Cavalli-Sforza, L. L., Menozzi, P., & Piazza, A. (1994). The history and geography of human genes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

International migration outlook: Annual report. (2007). Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti

John Milton

John Milton