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Since December 2017, I've been appointed as Professor in Public Administration at Erasmus University Rotterdam. My new (endowed) Chair focuses on connecting migration research and public administration research. This involves research to the dynamics of policymaking on migration and (migration-related) diversity at various levels, including the local as well as the national and the European level. The chair’s ambition is to contribute both to theory building in public administration scholarship on policy dynamics and wicked policy problems as well as to migration literature in terms of the comparative dynamics of migration and diversity policymaking. Furthermore, the ambition is to do so in a way that brings together state of the art international research with high quality education at bachelors as well as masters and post-master level. The chair has been supported by the Erasmus Trustfund. 

My inaugural address is to take place on Friday November 30th, at Erasmus University Rotterdam. 

Research statement for the new Chair

Migration and migration-related diversity have evolved into ‘wicked policy problems’. They are constantly high on the public, political and policy agenda, but seemingly irresolvable. There is a high degree of disagreement and uncertainty on policy goals and instruments. Also, the ‘locus’ of policy is contested; are these issues inherently connected to national identities and the international legal prerogative of states to manage borders, or rather to specific urban settings or requiring cooperation on a European scale? And what role can governments play in these areas; on the one hand, there is significant public and political pressure on governments to make policy interventions, on the other hand there are many situations in which the scope for government intervention is very slim. And what role should science play in this area, especially as the very language that is used to analyse these topics (such as what is ‘integration’, who is a ‘migrant’) is often ‘essentially contested’?

These questions make migration and migration-related diversity into key issues for public administration research. Research in these areas can contribute significantly to policymaking in this area, on an instrumental as well as a reflexive level. The other way around, research on the dynamics of migration and diversity policies can also contribute significantly to theory-development in public administration more in general. Various social scientists have suggested that the type of wicked policy problems or ‘intractable policy controversies’ (Rittel and Webber 1972, Schön and Rein 1994) are becoming increasingly pertinent in the context of the growing complexity of contemporary late-modern societies (Beck 1992). Migration and diversity are key manifestations of this complexity, marking the development of societies that are increasingly mobile and increasingly (super-) diverse. They are ‘revelatory cases’ that can teach public administration scholarship on policymaking in essentially contested settings.

Research on migration and diversity has matured over the last decade or so with an increasingly broad disciplinary focus. Besides the traditional involvement of disciplines as sociology and anthropology, there has been a growing involvement of historians, political scientists and law scholars as well. This has contributed to a better understanding of migratory processes, of the role of diversity in society (including ‘integration processes’), and of societal responses to migration and diversity.

Much less research has focused on understanding and explaining policymaking processes in the area of migration and diversity. This involves not only knowledge for policymaking, but primarily knowledge of policymaking and a critical analysis of the role of knowledge in policymaking (Lasswell 1971). It is in this regard that public administration research can make a contribution to and can learn from these policy areas. For migration research this can provide a broader framework accounting for why migration and diversity policies evolve along different paths in specific settings. How and why does the interplay between policy factors such as knowledge, power relations, institutional paths and discourses result in specific policies in specific settings?   


Ambition and research agenda

Policies on migration and migration-related diversity have long been assumed to develop along so-called ‘national models’ (Bowen 2007, Bertossi 2011). This would involve nationally specific approaches that evolve in the context of specific national problem situations (for instance, what migrants came from where and when) and historically developed perceptions of national identity (for instance, what is it to be French). Examples include the British ‘race relations’ model (Favell 1998, Bleich 2003), the French Republican Model (Brubaker 1992), and for a long time the Dutch multicultural model was also assumed to be such a national model (Duyvendak and Bertossi 2012). It is also in the context of such national models that the term ‘integration’ has surfaced, referring to mostly national efforts to promote social cohesion and socio-economic participation to accommodate newcomers within national institutions such as the welfare state (the ‘integration paradigm’, Favell 1998). 

Yet, there appears to be much more to the dynamics of migration and diversity policies than can be captured in so-called national models (see also Geddes and Scholten 2016, Duyvendak and Bertossi 2012, Bowen 2007). Policies have changed in ways that are not always directly related to the specific problem situations or policy histories of various countries. Scholars have identified various factors and processes, such as Europeanization (Geddes 2001) but also decentralization (Zapata-Barrero a.o. 2017), marketization of migration and diversity policies and services (Guiraudon and Lahav 2013), the role of immigrant politics and the rise of transnational politics (Kraal and Vertovec 2013, Garbaye 2002, Levitt and Glick-Schiller 2004), the volatility of migration and diversity discourses (Boswell a.o. 2010), the rise of political movements such as populism (Mudde 2007), the extent of politicization or depoliticization (Geddes and Scholten 2017), and the changed nature of migration and diversity itself (such as ‘superdiversity’, Vertovec 2007). This does not mean that these factors always undermine national models. Scholars such as Kymlicka (2016) have shown that for instance the resilience of welfare states requires some degree of national solidarity, which can come in the form of national models. Also in the area of migration, the recent Brexit referendum is a clear illustration of the resilience of national models.

This broader perspective on factors that may shape policy dynamics also requires a broader theoretical lens. Methodological nationalism (Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2003, Favell 2003) would for a long period have hampered systematic theory building on migration and diversity policies in a comparative perspective. It has contributed to a lack of attention to more generic factors that shape migration and diversity policies across different national (but also local) settings, such as those mentioned above. Therefore, the ambition of this chair is to develop a broader theoretical perspective on what drives migration and diversity policies across different settings.

The focus of this theoretical perspective is on policy dynamics, rather than on migratory processes and processes related to migration-related diversity in itself. The key question is what drives migration and diversity policymaking in different settings and how can differences between settings be explained? In terms of the dynamics of policymaking, this involves both policy change as well as policy stability, as situations of policy stability are also driven by specific processes to maintain policy equilibrium (Baumgartner and Jones 1993). In terms of different settings, this involves a cross-national as well as a multi-level (global, European, national, local) and multi-actor (governance as well as non-government) perspective. Furthermore, the perspective will focus both on migration policies and policies regarding migration-related diversity, wherever possible in their mutual relation. Migration policies are policies regarding entry and exit from a specific territory, whereas migration-related diversity refers to all sorts of diversity (ethnic, cultural, national, racial, and many others) related to migration. Such policies regarding migration-related diversity may include integration policies, but also other measures in other policy areas directed at migration-related diversity (reflecting the so-called ‘mainstreaming’ of integration governance).

In developing a broader theoretical perspective on the dynamics of migration and diversity policies, this chair will follow the reflective approach that has emerged in public administration and the policy sciences (Bekkers, Fenger and Scholten 2017). This approach looks at policy dynamics from multiple angles, each representing different types of factors that may influence policy dynamics (including the ones mentioned above). These angles relate broadly to the four paradigms that apply in the social sciences more generally (Guba 1990); rationalism, institutionalism, constructivism, and the political perspective. Speaking to these four paradigms, the following concrete themes will be central to the research of this Chair:

The role of knowledge in policy dynamics. Especially in the case of intractable policy controversies, the role of knowledge in policy dynamics is often contested. This also clearly applies to migration and diversity (Thranhardt and Bommes 2010). In this theme, speaking to the rationalist perspective, the chair seeks to develop systematic research to configurations of research-policy relations and the implications of these configurations for research as well as for policy. This speaks to the literature on knowledge utilization (Boswell 2009), who distinguishes symbolic and instrumental modes of knowledge utilization, as well as to the literature on coproduction of knowledge (Jasanoff 2004), analyzing how the (socio-political) context of research may influence the questions raised and methods used by researchers. With this research, the chair seeks to contribute to more reflectivity in research-policy dialogues on migration and diversity.

Policy dynamics and multi-level governance. A second factor that applies clearly to the field of migration and diversity, involves the complex multi-level setting of policy dynamics. Migration- and diversity policies are fragmented over various levels of government (international, EU, national, local) and actors (government, non-government). For instance, integration policies often are a clear local issue, whereas citizenship policies are often strongly national and migration policies in contrast have been Europeanized to a great extent. This theme speaks to theory development on multi-level governance (Bache and Flinders 2005, Hooghe and Marks 2001), but also to a better understanding of failing forms of multi-level governance and ‘disjointed governance.’ Much has been published in migration literature on policy models such as ‘multiculturalism’, ‘assimilationism’, interculturalism’ and ‘mainstreaming’. However, because of the focus on such ‘models’, relatively little knowledge has been developed on how and why specific models may apply in specific institutional settings. articular attention has emerged to institutional context of the city in relation to migration and diversity. Specifically for cities, there may be very different types of cities (see also Glick Schiller and Çağlar 2009), such as superdiverse cities, divided cities, new immigration cities, pathway cities, sanctuary cities, etc. A key question for this Chair will be to examine whether there is a better institutional fit between specific policy models and specific types of cities.

The role of discourses in policy dynamics. Finally, speaking to the constructivist perspective, the Chair will focus on the role of language, discourses and frames in policy dynamics. The fact that there are many essentially contested concepts in the field of migration and diversity, contribute to the intractability of these areas. There are few policy areas where there us such fundamental disagreement on core concepts such as ‘who is a migrant’, ‘how long does someone remain a migrant (into the second generation?)’, ‘what is migration’ and ‘what is integration.’ Besides object of sociological inquiry (is there an objective social phenomenon as migration), migration discourses can also be object of public administration inquiry; what distinctions can a state make between citizens based on origin or ethnicity, what are the implications of such distinctions for the groups themselves and for policy and politics (Schinkel 2017, Schneider and Ingram 1993). This chair will develop a comparative analysis of the role of discourses in policy dynamics, on the national as well as the local level. Here again the chair also seeks to contribute to more reflectivity (‘critical frame reflection’) in policy discourses in practice as well as in academic discourses.

The politics of migration and diversity policymaking. Politics involves a fourth theme that in many ways interact with the other themes that have been mentioned. In a narrow sense, politics refers to the role of migrants in policies, to studies of politicization and to the rise of specific political movements such as populism and anti-immigrant movements. But in a broader sense, politics also refers to the politics of knowledge (selecting or ignoring specific strands of knowledge and expertise), the politics of institutional relations (for instance triggering institutional friction between layers) and the politics of migration discourses (including the politics of how to classify and categorize migrants). It is this interaction with the other themes or factors where the primary interest of this chair lays; how does for instance the rise of populism influence politicization, the use of (scientific) knowledge, the relation between national and local policies, and the tone of migratory discourses?