Citizenship, Migration & Global Transformation: an interdisciplinary research project

A research team of fifteen people – representing domains such as political economy, international relations, law, history and public administration – will work on the interdisciplinary programme Citizenship, Migration and Global Transformation. Leiden University has granted 3.5 million euro’s to the research programme and it is expected to have great impact.

The grant has enabled Andrew Shield, an expert on Migration History, to get a permanent position at the Institute for History. We asked him about his own research, his role within the research team and plans for the future.

What exactly does your permanent position entail, and what does your research focus on?

‘I’m a university lecturer in Migration History. Leiden’s reputation – as a hub for Migration History – is what drew me to this university. My area of expertise is sexuality and migration. People often think sexuality is a private matter, but actually the opposite is true: politicians, lawmakers and journalists discuss their views on sexuality quite openly – whether they realize it or not. In turn, they shape the sexual norms and cultures of their society. In the field of migration studies, notions of sexuality influence debates about family reunification policies, or the legitimate grounds for asylum, for example.’

Tell us a bit more about Citizenship, Migration and Global Transformation and its interdisciplinary approach.

‘Migration is a pressing issue in the Netherlands, across the EU and worldwide. Migration is tied to a variety of other topics. That’s why I’ll be working within a group of fifteen people from various disciplines. Migration studies require interdisciplinary approaches and methods, as researchers draw from sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, history, and so forth. By bringing together scholars working on migration and citizenship studies at Leiden, this programme encourages all of us to embrace this interdisciplinarity. We can offer feedback and recommendations that draw from an enormous breadth of methods and theories. This will make our research and impact stronger.’

What is your precise role within the research programme?

‘My “pillar” is Social Citizenship and Migration. Citizenship is closely tied to migration studies, hence the name of the pillar. Social citizenship refers to what people have to do “belong” in the state – beyond having legal citizenship. A person’s decision to migrate from one country to another is often related to sexual orientation and gender identity. They can be “push” or “pull” factors. We have seen this in the last twenty years with the increase in the number of people seeking asylum on the grounds of persecution for being LGBTQ or intersex (especially in Western Europe and North America). My research looks a bit further back (1945-2000) and asks: How did state conceptions of (proper) sexuality or gender identity structure laws around migration and citizenship? How did individuals’ sexuality or transgender identity relate to their migration process?’

What do you hope to achieve by joining this programme?

‘I’m going to publish new research with support from my teammates. Apart from articles, books, conference presentations, I have also teamed up with IHLIA LGBT Heritage (based at the Amsterdam Public Library, with archives at IISG) with their Pink Life Stories (in Dutch: Roze levensverhalen) series. With IHLIA, I will help ensure that there are more oral histories of Dutch LGBTQs with migration backgrounds. I hope to showcase some of my own research in public settings, such as at IHLIA, the Leiden University Library, and other public settings around the Netherlands. I also hope to engage with immigration-related partners in Denmark, such as the Immigration Museum outside Copenhagen.’

What are you most looking forward to?

‘I’m excited to be challenged by the other members of my team to think differently about the ways I approach migration studies. I hope to do the same for them. As a historian, I have benefitted a lot from the social sciences. In turn, I can show how social science can benefit from history. I am so grateful to join this new interdisciplinary migration research team, particularly because our project will show how history and the social sciences can strengthen each other’s research.’

Citizenship, Migration and Global Transformation is one of eight interdisciplinary programmes that have been launched at Leiden University in 2020. They focus on intensifying interdisciplinary collaboration throughout the University, and respond to issues affecting the world today as well as to agendas such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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