Project Background

Geographers and anthropologists have long investigated the causes and consequences of migration from multiple spatial and temporal scales.  At the international scale, globalization has increased labor mobility, especially from the Global South to the Global North.  As local economies are transformed by global economic restructuring, skilled and unskilled laborers cross national borders in search of better employment opportunities (Ferro 2006; Ong 1999; Sassen 1998).  These new migration patterns have had four significant outcomes.  First, the immigration process has sparked debates in receiving countries about how to control immigration and how to cope with immigrants from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Kearney 1986).  Second, aided by new technologies (such as modern transportation, cell phones, the internet, electronic banking), contemporary migrants have been able to maintain strong economic and cultural ties with their home country (Horst and Miller 2006; Mahler 2001; Trager 2005).  Third, these transnational communities of migrants have transformed their home communities through wage remittances and other non-material forms of exchange (Conway and Cohen 1998; Eversole 2005; Grigolini 2005; Jones 1998). And, fourth, women have become an increasingly significant proportion of international migrants, and many of them work abroad while family members (parents, husbands, children) remain home (Simon and Brettell 1986; Pessar and Mahler 2003).  

At an individual or family scale, the decision to migrate represents a complex interplay of individual perceptions, needs, and desires (push factors), coupled with the ability (financial, legal) to move, and real or perceived benefits offered at the destination (pull factors).  Behavioral approaches to the study of migration focus on the “mechanisms behind individual acts of migration” (Boyle et al. 1998:62) seeking to integrate and acknowledge the importance of subjective evaluations of place and individual perceptions of place utility in the study of migration decision-making. The process by which potential migrants decide to move or not to move thus is dependent upon economic, cultural, social, familial, and perceptual factors as well as broader national and global contexts in which these decisions are made. Our study examines individual and family migration decision-making processes within the context of global-scale outcomes. As a case study, we focus specifically on the transnational migration of Kazakhs from Mongolia to Kazakhstan. This case study allows us to evaluate cultural, social, and kinship dimensions of migration thereby contributing to individual-scale theories of migration decision-making in an international context and advancing our understanding of global-scale patterns and processes shaping population redistribution.

We chose this particular location and population because it allows us to better isolate cultural, social, kin and gender factors in migration decisions for the following reasons:(a) the migrants are moving from one developing country (Mongolia) to another developing, albeit more developed, country (Kazakhstan); (b) the receiving country has provided economic incentives for migration; and (c) the migrants have strong cultural ties to the dominant ethnic group in the receiving country. Since 1991, the newly independent country of Kazakhstan has become one of three countries (including Israel and Germany) that have established a program to repatriate kinsmen living beyond its borders in Russia, China, Mongolia, Turkey, and elsewhere.  Nearly half of the 120,000 Mongolian Kazakhs have migrated to Kazakhstan for a complex interplay of cultural and economic reasons.  While the migration flows have vacillated over the past sixteen years and as many as one-third of the migrants have returned to Mongolia, it has become increasingly clear that some migrants are following a circular pattern of migration, while other potential migrants are opting for immobility (Barcus and Werner 2007; Diener 2003). We use the Mongolian Kazakh diaspora as a case study in which to understand the interplay of global and individual conceptualizations of the international migration process and seek to integrate and further our understanding of these theoretical perspectives.  This research contributes to the theoretical understanding of the migration process and the interdependencies of economic and cultural factors that influence the decision to migrate or remain in place. The project expands on our previous research on this topic in this study location.

 

Acknowledgement of Organizations Funding the Research:

2008-2010
Barcus & Werner. National Science Foundation. “Collaborative Research: Networks, Gender, Culture and the Migration Decision-Making Process:  A Case Study of the Kazakh Diaspora in Western Mongolia”

Werner. Stipendiary Fellow, Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Texas A&M,
2009-10; “Mobility, Immobility, and Transnational Migration among Mongolian Kazakhs” (International Studies Program fellow)

2009
Barcus & Brede. Collaborative Research: Networks, Gender, Culture and the Migration Decision-Making Process: A Case Study of the Kazakh Diaspora in Western Mongolia. Student-Faculty Summer Research Collaboration with Namara Brede, Macalester College. $4,615.

Werner & Emmelhainz, National Science Foundation Grant, 2009, Research Experience for Graduate Students (REG) Supplemental Grant to take graduate student Celia Emmelhainz to Mongolia.

Werner. International Research and Travel Grant, International Programs, Texas A&M,
2008; “Mobility, Immobility, and Transnational Migration among Mongolian Kazakhs”

Werner. Stipendiary Fellow, Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Texas A&M,
2008-09; “Mobility, Immobility, and Transnational Migration among Mongolian Kazakhs” (Anthropology Department fellow)

2006
Barcus. Migration Decision-Making, Culture, and Trans-National Identities: A Case Study of the Mongolian Kazakh Diaspora.  Association of American Geographers, AAG Research Grant. $1,000.

Barcus. Migration Decision-Making, Culture, and Trans-National Identities: A Case Study of the Mongolian Kazakh Diaspora.  Macalester College.  Wallace Travel and Research Grant.  $5,950.
Werner. Women’s Interdisiplinary Seed Grant Research Award, Women’s Studies Program, Texas A&M, 2006; “Returning Home: Gender, Migration and the Kazakh Diaspora in Mongolia.”

Werner. Program to Enhance Scholarly and Creative Activities Award, Vice President
for Research, Texas A&M, 2006; “Returning Home: Gender, Migration and the Kazakh
Diaspora in Mongolia”

Werner. Faculty Research Enhancement Award, College of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M, 2005
“From an Imagined Homeland to Immediate Needs: Social Networks, Gender and the
Migration of Kazakhs from Mongolia to Kazakhstan”

2004
Barcus, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Grant, Contemporary MongoliaProgram; awarded through the University of Pittsburgh; 2004, “Population, Environment, and Geo-Spatial Technologies in Mongolia”  

Werner, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Grant, Contemporary Mongolia
Program; awarded through the University of Pittsburgh; 2004 “Women’s Experiences in Mongolia”