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Scholten, Peter (2019). Mainstreaming versus Alienation: Conceptualizing the role of complexity in migration and diversity policymaking. Now available in Open Access


Why do processes of policymaking on migration and (migration-related) diversity so often seem ‘out of control’? Systematically linking literature on complexity governance and migration literature, this article proposes a new conceptual framework for understanding the role of complexity in the governance of migration and diversity. Complexity literature argues that complex problems like migration and diversity require complex approaches. However, migration literature shows that policy processes in these areas often fail to capture complexity, for instance through ‘quick fixes’ in migration regulation or on a strong belief in state-led ‘immigrant integration.’ This results in what is conceptualized in this article as ‘alienation’ from issue developments in migration and diversity, which comes in various forms: problem alienation, institutional alienation, political alienation and social alienation. Alternatively, ‘mainstreaming’ is conceptualized as a governance approach that does try to capture rather than ignore or deny complexity. This requires, however, a rethinking of migration and diversity governance as a generic approach that does not treat migration and diversity as ‘stand-alone’ topics, that is oriented at the whole (diverse) population, that involves complex actor networks and a contingent and emergent process rather than a one-size-fits-all policy model.  By helping actors to understand and respond to complexity, researchers can contribute to reflexivity in policy processes and help to promote mainstreaming and prevent alienation. 

Keywords: Complexity, Policy, Mainstreaming, Alienation, Reflexivity

Available in open access here