Re-thinking the politics of migration. On the uses and challenges of regime perspectives for migration research

Kenneth Horvath*, Anna Amelinaz, Karin Peters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this special issue is to critically assess the potential of regime theory for migration research. Against the background of contemporary political dynamics, regime terminology has become rather popular in migration studies. There has, however, been little debate on the foundations and implications of the very notion of 'regime'. Although regime is anything but a unified concept, in this article we argue that there are commonalities in analytical perspectives useful for migration research. Current usages in migration research are informed by at least four different strands of theory building that differ in their epistemological, ontological, and methodological foundations: (i) international relations-notions of regimes as international regulatory frameworks, (ii) conceptualizations informed by welfare regime theories, (iii) regime notions that stem from the French regulation school, and (iv) regime theories inspired by governmentality studies. The collection of articles in this special issue mirrors this constellation. The contributions come from different disciplinary and methodological backgrounds, employ different regime notions, and focus on a wide range of aspects of contemporary European migration politics. While it seems crucial to acknowledge this conceptual variety, we argue that there are also important points of convergence between these strands of theory building: attention to the complexities and contradictions of regulatory practices, a focus on normative and discursive orders, and consideration of relations of power and inequality. This specific simultaneity of variety and convergence may open spaces for academic debates that move beyond established conceptual and methodological boundaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-314
JournalMigration Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Borders
  • Europe
  • Migration politics
  • Migration regimes
  • Mobilities
  • Regime theory


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