Global Migrations and Social Justice at Glasgow Sociology

Glasgow Sociology is proud to be offering a new taught Masters degree in Global Migrations and Social Justice. Both the content and format are unique, and expertly placed within our context in Scotland. We are also very pleased to be offering several scholarships for this programme for students from a refugee background.

Below, convenors Dr Teresa Piacentini and Dr Gareth Mulvey discuss the scope, imagination, and timeliness of the degree programme with Head of Subject, Dr Andy Smith.

What is the role of this programme within wider global issues of migration, mobility, and social justice?

Teresa Piacentini: This programme provides a focus, a place to bring together the study of global migrations with social justice, creating a space for dialogue between the two. The idea for the course began before the present humanitarian crisis in Europe, before the new Immigration Act 2016, before Brexit, before Trump. And, it seems that today we need this programme more ever. Who moves and why, who is allowed to settle and where, what are the roles of states, institutions and civil societies in these processes.  These are important questions for us as academics, as activists, as students and as members of civil society and we need to be not only asking them of ourselves and of each other but also individually and collectively critically engaging with the terms of those debates.

Gareth Mulvey: Contrary to arguments that people have not been ‘allowed’ to talk about immigration, policy-makers over the past 20-years have never stopped talking about and legislating on immigration matters, though it was always only aimed at the unwanted or the ‘bad’ migrants. This combined with the economic crisis has led to a situation where migrants are being blamed for all the social ills of society, be it stagnating wages, lack of housing, waiting lists in the NHS etc, and this then ran straight into the Brexit narrative. This makes the politics of migration at present deeply concerning with a resurgent populist right questioning the mobility rights of the ‘bad’ migrants. This programme will aim to get behind the assumed ‘naturalness’ of these arguments to question the fundamental tenets of the anti-immigration case. But it will also do much more than that in looking at the ways research can help to facilitate change.

Where do you see your own research supporting, or in conversation with, the programme?

Gareth: A lot of my research is about what policy is, the rationale for it and how it then impacts on those that it is aimed at. That being the case my research will be used to bring out some of the gaps between the rhetoric and reality in immigration policy. Part of that is how it effects migrants themselves but it also about the broader political system. So, for example, the devolved ‘settlement’ is producing some divergence in immigrant policy, but not yet in immigration policy. My research on social citizenship will be used to tease out questions of the right to have rights and how this differs territorially.

Teresa: My own research is quite broad and has focused on settlement experiences in Scotland, largely from the perspectives of asylum seekers and refugees themselves. More recently I’ve been involved in research in the area of equitable access to health services and my work is presently developing the area of refugee camp patternings. I very much see this as fitting directly to the aims and objectives of the overall programme, not only in offering critical migration perspectives but also in foregrounding migrant voices and experiences in how migration and social justice are theorised and conceptualized, and in demonstrating the applied nature of this kind of research in relation to migration and social justice.

What is unique about this new programme?

Gareth: The obvious thing is the interdisciplinary nature of it as well as how it reflects the GRAMNet ethos of partnership and real knowledge exchange, as opposed to knowledge exchange being academics imparting their wisdom to everyone else. This means that practitioners will be a key part of the programme. The other very unique thing about the programme itself is that it’s not just about what the situation is, but is also about how to try and change it. I’m not aware of other Masters programmes that are so action oriented. Finally, this is the only such programme in Scotland and the Scottish context should not be underplayed. There is a growing literature about ‘sub-state’ or ‘sub-national’ difference in immigration and immigrant practice and this is a programme that will be clearly linked to the policy process below that level of the central state. As this moves towards Brexit and a possible second independence referendum this type of programme can provide both questions and answers as to where ‘we’ are and where ‘we’ seem to be going

Teresa: It’s one of a kind in Scotland. It is underpinned by an ethos, if you like, that studying the many questions around global migrations cannot be separated from studying questions of social justice.  Students really will benefit from innovative and creative teaching approaches across the programme and it’s going to be very exciting and dynamic!

Finally, where does this new programme fit with existing research and teaching in the subject area?

Andy Smith: Whilst the new MSc is organized, and the core courses are delivered, from within Sociology, the programme wouldn’t be possible without the cross-disciplinary collaborations and relations that have emerged under the auspices of GRAMNet. The range of optional courses reflects the breadth of expertise that GRAMNet brings together. In that respect we hope that it will allow participants to focus on particular questions which might be of interest to them and which are being explored in different ways by colleagues across the university: the legal construction of refugee status and the processing of asylum claims; the histories of exile and displacement; barriers that migrant communities face in accessing health care and education, and so on. But the situating of the programme within Sociology reflects the presence here of a considerable body of colleagues who work on diaspora, migration, racism and nationalism. Crucially, we approach this work in a particular way: we believe that migration can only be properly understood: i) by situating it within an awareness of the structures of global economic inequality; ii)  by understanding how it is shaped by the histories and contemporary ramifications of racism and imperialism; iii) by developing a critical understanding of the ways in which immigrant communities are constructed as dangerous or problematic in the political discourses of the state and in much contemporary media coverage. Moreover, we are not interested only in an abstract understanding of these questions, we are interested in thinking about how we might respond. The core courses give central space to sessions led by those working and campaigning in relation to these questions, so it brings together – we hope – the best of rigorous social research with the learning and expertise of practitioners and activists.

If you’re interested in applying for this programme please see the following links:

Postgraduate Taught listing: http://www.gla.ac.uk/postgraduate/taught/globalmigrationssocialjusticemsc/

Scholarship: http://www.gla.ac.uk/scholarships/globalmigrationssocialjusticescholarship/