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Niklas Reese, Judith Welkmann (ed.): The echo of migration

Niklas Reese, Judith Welkmann (ed.): The echo of migration. How foreign migration is changing societies in the global south. Horlemann Verlag (Unkel) 2010. 326 pages. ISBN 978-3-89502-294-4. 19.90 EUR.
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Migration and mobility as a normal social condition

Migration research, as well as everyday, social debates on questions of the migration of individuals and groups from one (ancestral) habitat to another, revolve mainly around the so-called structural push and pull factors, as well as migration movements from south to north. Rarely, and rather from a casual historical perspective, it is expressed that migration is a social motive that the Anthropos (Aristotle), is given to humans as an existence-affirming, rational, energetic and dynamic living being. If one considers migration of people from this aspect, it becomes clear that the dominant discourse, which is predominantly focused on economic and humanitarian motivation, not only presents the motives for migration one-sided, but also robs them of their importance for a global coexistence of people on earth. It is worth taking this entirely new and surprising perspective into the controversial discussions about migration phenomena and causes.

Background and publisher

The "pathologization" of migration, which is shown in the national and international disputes about the migration movements of people, is made clear in the fact that the use of argumentation and language is about depicting migration as an exceptional and catastrophic state to be overcome. “Boat refugees”, “illegal immigrants”, “parasites” ... these are defensive reactions that come from the mostly saturated majority societies; and threatening gestures like “The boat is full” are intended to deter immigration; and expose the purely economic and egotistical (more recent) arguments for a “targeted immigration policy” and identify the horror scenarios as such: “The proportion of migrants in the world population has been relatively constant for centuries (around three percent). Only the directions of migration, the distance that is overcome and, to some extent, the motives vary ”.

A change of look is indicated; not in order to downplay the problems that arise for immigration societies through immigration, just as they do for emigration societies, but in order to broaden the perspectives of the residents as well as the immigrants and thus to understand integration as a give and take for everyone involved . The editorial team, Niklas Reese, Managing Director of the Philippines office, coordinator of the project "Social Consequences of Globalization" in the Asia House in Bonn and research assistant at the university and the social scientist Judith Welkmann, Employee at the Wuppertal Information Office Nicaragua, brings together a further 33 experts in the anthology “The Echo of Migration” who deal with “what changes will result from migration for the societies of origin - in terms of prosperity, social security, industrial relations, but also with regard to gender and family relationships ”. Overall, it is argued that looking at migration from the perspective of societies of origin is “neither a dream nor a nightmare”, but rather the differentiated analysis of the specific motives and conditions for emigration prevents the formation of stereotypes or even painting apocalyptic scenarios on the wall .

The focus of the topics is on the societies of origin in Southeast Asia and Latin America, with the focus of the presentations referring to Filipino migration conditions and case studies of migrants from Mexico and Ecuador. According to the editors, this is due to the situation that the scientific studies available on this issue provide a clearer picture of the effects of migration on societies of origin

Structure and content

The book “The Echo of Migration” is divided into five chapters.

The first part is entitled “Aufbruch”. The authors deal with the question: “Why do people break up?”. The economic and political factors as well as the prevailing migration cultures are discussed. In the second part, the headline “In between” refers to the historical reasons for migration and localizes the migration movements with north-south and south-south migration, as well as addressing the phenomena of transnational migration. In the third chapter, on the one hand, the “repercussions” are addressed: Brain or Gain? And, on the other hand, the feminization of migration is thematized using numerous case studies. Fourthly, it is shown how state action takes place from the "southern perspective" under the importance of migration. And in the fifth part, questions relating to the return of migrants to their home countries are addressed and models for return migration and reintegration are presented.

The PhD student Lisa Kronauer has been in Bangladesh since September 2008 as part of the Weltwärts program and researches the vulnerability of livelihoods in shrimp farming. With her contribution "Migration in the field of tension between climate change and industrial environmental destruction" she shows how shrimp and shrimp production, using the example of Bangladesh, contributes to the destruction of livelihoods and how initiatives to recultivate the landscape are slowly developing.

Débora Benckerts trip to Burma and her encounters with Burmese in Southeast Asia prompted her to grapple with the situation of the Chin refugees in Malaysia. You are between two truly life-threatening millstones: on the one hand there are the inhumane living conditions of the country of origin with a dictatorial military government and economic and political existential threats, on the other hand the inhumane situation in Malaysia, which is unregulated under international law.

The ethnologist working at the British University of Keele on a research project on the “Filipino Diaspora” Claudia Liebelt, deals with the dreams, self-images and expectations of Filipino women, which she ascertains in conversations with migrant women who are active in various forms of employment and exploitation. In doing so, she notices developments that range from “transnational subjectivities” to new solidarities and that are articulated in self-confident network structures.

The geographer and PhD student at the University of Bonn, Patrick Sakdapolrak, presents in a case study on international labor migration in Thailand the change that is developing “from the struggle for survival to cultural practice” and shows that “every migration () has to do with the ... feedback processes - the relative impoverishment, expansion of the migration networks and the emergence the migration culture - (leads) to a change in the sending society, which leads to further migration events ”.

The Zurich ethnologist Daniela Travels uses the example of the everyday life of the people in the southern highlands of Ecuador to discuss forms of migration culture that have been established there for decades.The experiences, contacts and connections that have formed between emigrants, those willing to emigrate and return migrants and in the region shape the everyday forms of the people there and represent a constantly present option for the residents.

Hauke ​​Lorenz, who studies ethnology, Latin American studies and geography at the University of Hamburg and is involved with Amnesty International, deals with the “subjective norms and legal perceptions of Central American migrants in the transit country Mexico”. It shows the dangers, discrimination and persecution of illegal migrants on their way to the USA as their destination country and shows the various survival strategies that Central American migrants develop in the process.

Judith Welkmann and Niklas Reese discuss with the question “Should I stay or should I go?” the reasons that lead people to stay or, if they migrate, choose internal rather than transnational migration.

The geography didactician at the universities of teacher education in Freiburg and Schwäbisch-Gmünd, Burkard Richter, connects with the previous question with the presentation of the results of a case study from Thailand's northeast. In doing so, he can relativize the previous analyzes, in which the economic reasons for migration and staying behavior are predominantly in the foreground, by making it clear that motives of self-realization increasingly play a role for non-migration in the examined region.

In the second part of the anthology, the first contributions are about "Migration from the north to the south and south-south migration". The journalist and trained peace worker, who lives in Lower Bavaria and Italy, trainer for intercultural and social skills, Gisela Dürselen, is dedicated to the historical migration movements from Europe to Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries using the example of emigration to Brazil. In doing so, she draws attention to the fact that the migratory movements of the past centuries began in Europe.

The graduate cultural economist Nina Benischke draws attention in her contribution to the legal and humane differences between expatriates and migrants using examples from foreigners in Malaysia and shows certain similarities between the two different immigrant groups in the country. In doing so, he also points to certain developments and practices in view of immigration as both an (economic) need and a burden (to be avoided).

The sociologist Kirsten Clodius and the Latin Americanist who is currently still working in Nicaragua as an EIRENE specialist Claudia Jaekel discuss the situation with the currently most important population movement between two Latin American neighboring states, the "South-South migration between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and its consequences". They point to a phenomenon that has so far been neglected in migration research, namely that migration in Latin America takes place to a large extent within the subcontinent, with all the effects that have an impact on the decline of traditional family structures and changes in gender relations.

Svenja Flechtner and Daniela Travels Introduce the further contributions on the topic of “transnationality” with the note that the understanding of migration is also changing as a result of the globalization processes, from the temporary residence expectations of the “guest workers” and assimilation expectations to the development of permanent networks, communication channels and multi-local family relationships and social relationships that transcend geographic, political and cultural boundaries. Svenja Flechtner uses the example of Filipinos and Filipinas in the USA to draw attention to "how transmigrants influence their country of origin"; Daniela Travels points to the diverse, material and ideal forms of contact and influence of the emigrants with those who stayed at home.

The research assistant in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Bonn, Simone Christ, deals with the conditions and effects of contract work using the example of Filipino contract workers in the Gulf States, the USA and Europe. The culturally and emotionally defined obligations of the contract workers mean that many of them (have to) contribute to the livelihood of their relatives who have stayed at home through money transfers and thus hardly have the chance to return savings for starting their own business after their return from their predominantly precarious income to be able to lay. The vicious circle sets in: You have to enter into a temporary contract migration again.

The Münster doctoral candidate Heiko Kiser reports on his research results on the Mexican "Braceros" who work as migrant workers with temporary work visas in the USA, often in exploitative working conditions and also disregarded by the majority of society. The author clarifies the absurd situation that at least a short immigration stay in the USA has become, so to speak, an "initiation rite" for many growing Mexican men, with all the detrimental consequences for family structures and gender relations in the country. Discussed in a second post Heiko Kiser also the importance of religion for the migration process from the Mexican point of view, including the incipient course of change in the practice of religious practice and the provision of aid measures by the American church institutions and networks.

The seaman's deacon Ernst-Otto Oberstech reminds that “without Filipino seafarers there would be no international shipping”. There are around 266,000 Filipinos who traditionally work as seafarers around the world, but whose existence is endangered by (cheaper) competitors from Russia, Ukraine, China, India and other countries, as well as by flagged ships. The author complains that although the Philippine government portrays seafarers as “new heroes” in social discourse (and with a view to economic interests), it does too little to provide adequate social security for Filipinos and their family members and for one Improvement in working and wage conditions occurs.

Niklas Reese wants to draw attention to the situation of transnational jobs using the example of the Philippines with the saying “We live in a different time zone!”. In the Philippine "boom industry call center", especially for the US economy, more and more well-trained, excellent English-speaking Filipinos are employed, who cost the client only a fifth of what they would have to spend as wages in the USA ; and even less than for Indian call center workers. The absurd situation, which has a negative effect on social structures and the self-confidence of the people in the Philippines, also consists in the fact that employment in a call center brings significantly higher wages than college graduates in the rest of the labor market. The telling statement by a Filipino call center employee that she is a Filipino by day and an American at night illustrates the individual and social turmoil of the people.

In the third part of the anthology, the "Repercussions" discussed that migrants exercise on their home countries and societies. The Austrian geographer and regional researcher Philip Weninger shows the enormous global importance that money transfers from migrants to their countries of origin regularly carry out. According to World Bank calculations, there were more than 283 billion US dollars in remittances in 2008. With a case study that the author carried out in the spring of 2008 on the Philippine archipelago of the Visayas, the island of Cebu, he demonstrates the numerous individual and community-promoting effects in the areas of education, health and nutrition, which are a positive development for a community mean.

The geographer who has been managing director of the Philippines office at the Asian house in Bonn since 2009 Michael Reckordt, uses the example of the urban design of Metro Manila, an urban agglomeration area with numerous marginal and squatter settlements, to discuss the development of “shopping malls” in this location of all places. He identifies the financial impact of remittances by Filipino migrants, the Oversea Filipino Workers (OFW), as well as the start-ups of the returned Filipinos in these outskirts of the megacities, and thus the emergence of a new "middle class".

Niklas Reese and the political scientist at De La Salle University in Manila, Johanna Wiese, take the fact that around ten percent of the population of the Philippines live and work abroad to determine: "The Philippine education and health system trains people for migration".They show that the consciousness of the people in the Philippines is strongly oriented towards "seeing schools and universities ... as a training center for a job abroad", which on the other hand leads to an enormous shortage of qualified teachers and medical staff and a loss of quality in the country leads and "promotes the division between those who benefit from migration and those who will become long-term undoing for them".

The Southeast Asian scientist Yvonne Bach expresses with “Merantau”, an Indonesian term for (temporary) “to emigrate, to go abroad”, which problems arise with female labor migration from Indonesia. It is not uncommon for exploitation and abuse, which, however, are often ignored by those affected and certainly not given as feedback back home, thus falsifying the image of "success" of those who have left the young women who have stayed at home and encouraging them to migrate as well.

The Berlin employee of Watch Indonesia !, Samia Dinekaker and the one with the topic “Gender in the Context of Religion, Tradition, Modernity in Aceh. Positions and influence of women activists in the transformation process "at the Goethe University Frankfurt / M. Doctoral candidates Kristina Grossmann (which does not appear in the author's directory in the book) put observations from the small town of Tulung Agung in East Java up for discussion, from which it emerges that the migrant, who leaves her family behind, becomes the earning head of the family with the regular transfers and thus influenced the traditional family and social structures and even changed traditions after their return.

The Austrian social scientist Alicia Allgäuer reports on the results of her research that she carried out in 2007/08 in Andalusia, Spain and Valle Alto in Bolivia in the Cochabamba region. After the traditional directions of migration to the USA and Argentina, which were traditional for Spanish migrants, became more and more impermeable, the migrating Bolivian women oriented themselves more towards Spain, due to historically existing networks and contacts. In the opinion of the author, why one can speak of a feminization of migration in Bolivia - and also in Latin America - is essentially related to the fact that the “irresponsibility of fathers” forces women to take sole responsibility for the care and upbringing of their children to take over. But because “migration itself () does not automatically (result in) greater social or economic autonomy”, especially not in the short term, longer immigration stays are necessary, which in turn contribute to a change in the local family and gender structures.

The sociologist from Brown University in Rhode Island / USA, Rhacel Salazar Pyarreñas, reports on a research project that she calls “Care in Crisis” and describes the situation of children from transnational families in the new global economy in the Philippines. Using several case studies, she shows how the children, at least temporarily motherless due to the migration of women, are cared for and raised by surrogate mothers or, in the better case, by surrogate parents. In doing so, the author works out that the all-too-simple demand for the nuclear family to return is neither realistic nor sensible; rather, it is about taking a closer look at the special needs of transnational families, for example by realigning gender ideology in the Philippines.

The cultural and social anthropologist from the University of Vienna, Heike Wagner, deals with the prevailing prejudice in Ecuador that the Ecuadorian women in Spain are unfaithful to their domestic partners and, in the official version, that migration of women affects families and especially the lives of children who live in Ecuador stayed, destroy. In her research results, however, the author shows that "the migration of mothers (...) often does not (lead) to the destruction of the family and the life of their children, but () brings to light problems that already existed before the migration" .

Carolyn Sobritchea from the University of the Philippines presents the experiences of “remote mothering” that Filipino migrant workers have to provide. They range from financial contributions, to homesick activities, to feelings of guilt. It is the “double sacrifice” that migrant workers have to make as mothers and family members, which they (doubt) have, but which also challenge them to the utmost.

Alicia Pingol from the University of Hull, UK, is leading a research project on Filipino female contract workers in Saudi Arabia. In her contribution “Reclaiming Fatherhood” she reflects on the positions of Filipino householders (who stayed at home). The role and image changes that take place from machismo to househusband take place "on site" in different variations, ranging from tragedies to changing the traditional father image, "" Dad is mom ".

The political scientist Kathrin Zeiskewho works as a carer for sick, attacked and accident victims in the hostel "Buon Pastor" in Tapachula, in the Mexican border region to Guatemala, reports on her experiences with the "interplay of racism, deportations, corruption and impunity" in the region. On their way from the Central American countries across the border river Suchiate through Mexico to the USA, the migrants encounter a wall of rejection, hatred and exploitation by Mexican residents to which they are exposed unprotected.

The sociologist and research assistant at the Latin America Institute of the Free University of Berlin, Stefanie Kron, shows with her contribution "Gender and Citizenship in Transnational Migration" processes of social change using the example of the Guatemalan district of San Pedro Soloma. The region has become known as "pueblo sin ley", as a "place without law" because the middlemen irregular migration to the USA, known as coyotes, determine collective life in the locality and thus bring about new forms of citizenship practices.

The political scientist from the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute Freiburg, Stefan Rother, discussed with the question “Democracy” as remittance? ”Influences of migrant workers on the democratic development in their home countries. He shows the different situations and conditions that migrant workers from Indonesia or the Philippines find in their countries of origin and host countries, or the opportunities for participation of migrants from Central America and Mexico. The not-too-surprising but interesting result: it is generally not the form of government in the destination country that per se has an impact on the political attitudes of migrants; rather, what matters is “how migrants observe and experience them in their everyday life”.

The Bernese social anthropologist Regina Zürcher analyzes the "effects of migration on the local organization in El Salvador", using the example of two communities to investigate the economic, socio-cultural and political consequences of the increasing migration of young Salvadorans, especially to the USA, on the governmental, administrative and has everyday organization.

The fourth chapter "Migration. `Governing` from the south perspective", heads the sociologist Boris Michel begins with reflections on the relationship between migration, nation and state in the Philippines by titling his contribution: "From contract workers to the 'Global Pinoy'". With this, the author discusses the two-sided problem that affects state action: on the one hand, the difficulties of the brain drain, the emigration of skilled workers, on the other hand, the fears that the ties of migrants to their home country, not least the enormous support money that has been taken into account as remittances flow into the land, could subside. The state program “Global Pinoy” therefore encourages Filipinos living outside the country to invest in their home countries, even with the incentive to allow for example dual citizenship (USA / Philippines).

The Graz native who works in the field of development education work in the Philippines Helga Moser provides an overview of the various fields in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are active on the subject of labor migration. With their different, target-specific work, the NGOs get caught up in the pincer movement of the government's version of hero propaganda as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and, on the other hand, in efforts to improve the precarious living conditions of the OFWs.

The Hamburg ethnologist and geographer Hauke ​​Lorenz draws attention to “Mexico's ambivalent migration policy” by providing information about the different dealings and political detours, pointing out human rights violations and denouncing the sometimes racist and criminal attacks on migrants, which are barely suppressed by the state.

The Southeast Asian scientist Yvonne Bach informs about legal and illegal practices of recruiting Indonesian women as migrant workers. Official job placement begins for women willing to migrate with an obligatory stay of several weeks in training centers, some of which are inhumane and corrupt conditions and employment contracts are issued with horrific demands for repayment of the costs incurred for training, placement and contract awarding.

In the fifth and final chapter "Heim-Weh" the ambiguity of the hyphen is expressed. The ethnologist, science editor and freelance journalist, Stephan Brues Draws attention to the "ambivalence of the self-organized return of refugees" by reporting on the difficulties and resistance the Guatemalan refugees had to overcome who fled to Mexico during the civil war in Guatemala in the 1980s; it is estimated that around 1.5 million people lived in Mexico as recognized refugees and illegals. With the end of military rule in Guatemala in 1986, with the help of the UN refugee organization UNHCR, there were return programs to model villages in the country that were assigned and controlled by the government. The resistance of the refugees to this led to the establishment of an interest group (CCPP) in Mexico, which served as a mouthpiece (though largely powerless) for the interests of the refugees, now less than ever.

The managing director of the Filipino NGO Atikha, which offers reintegration assistance, provides educational opportunities and is the contact person for Filipino returnees, May Dizon Añonuevo, informs about the different types of return migration: return due to failure; goal-oriented return; innovative return; Return to retire; and forced return. The extent to which reintegration into society is successful depends on the one hand on the reasons for returning, and on the other hand on the ability and willingness of all those involved to be able to start a new life upon return.


The anthology “The Echo of Migration” certainly discusses a sensitive topic that is usually not present in the migration research discourse, but also not in public and social discussion. The diverse topics, even if they are exclusively focused on Southeast Asian and Latin American migration phenomena and do not even take into account problems from Africa and Southeast Europe, are able to relativize the all too one-sided disaster scenario-oriented debate about modern migration movements of people. The short contributions can only hint at the problems, foreground and background, but also the advantages of migration; but they can serve to intensify research efforts and, last but not least, to enable a change of perspective in which migration is (also) an asset of human development.

The vivid and inviting layout of the volume with clearly recognizable “environment” paper is also pleasant.

Review by
Dipl.-Päd. Dr. Jos Schnurer
Former lecturer at the University of Hildesheim
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Jos Schnurer. Review from 02/09/2011 to: Niklas Reese, Judith Welkmann (Ed.): The echo of migration. How foreign migration is changing societies in the global south. Horlemann Verlag (Unkel) 2010. ISBN 978-3-89502-294-4. In: socialnet reviews, ISSN 2190-9245,, date of access May 20, 2021.

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