Home“Privileged Migrations” Studies and the Plurality of Power Relations

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“Privileged Migrations” Studies and the Plurality of Power Relations

L’étude des migrations privilégiées face à la pluralité des rapports sociaux

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Published on Thursday, December 08, 2022


This thematic dossier builds on the framework of privileged migrations studies to analyze the multiple power relations that are forged around international or overseas mobility, the resources that enable it, the benefits that it generates, the social mobility that it induces, and the forms of domination that it consolidates or reconfigures. This thematic dossier aims to account for dominant positions characterized by the accumulation of resources, advantages, and benefits accumulated through migration, as well as more ambivalent migratory experiences where the exercise of domination and the experience of minorization are intertwined and where migratory privilege must be nuanced. The contributions analyze the subjective experience of these advantageous social positions in migration, while approaching them relationally.



The introduction of the notion of “privileged migration”, popularized in 2012 by Sheila Croucher’s pioneering article, has turned migration studies upside down, first in their English-speaking field and then in French-speaking spaces. When it first appeared in social sciences, the concept of migratory “privilege” was initially thought of in terms of North-South mobilities: it then highlighted the way in which postcolonial power asymmetries between nation-states gave way to asymmetries of mobility. The ranking of passports according to the number of countries to which they give visa-free access (Henley Passport Index) is an emblematic example of how nationality directly determines mobility inequalities and defines migratory privilege. Starting from this conceptualization centered on postcolonial power relations between nation-states, the construction of privileged migration as an object includes — but is not limited to — stays usually placed under the banner of “mobility”, “expatriation” (Faist, 2013) or tourism. The concept of migratory privilege is thus not limited to Western European and North American “globalization elites” (Wagner, 1998) or “international brokers” (Dezalay, 2004), but also refers — as it is handled in the literature — to more frequent and less elite mobilities, sometimes referred to as “middling transnationalism” (Conradson and Latham, 2005). Privileged migrations are therefore characterized by a certain heterogeneity, especially since some of them hybridize around travel practices that combine study, work and leisure (Le Bigot, 2016). Privileged migrations include, finally, not only international migration in the strict sense, involving the crossing of a state border, but also mobilities between former imperial powers and their overseas territories, the last official scraps of last-century great empires (Cosquer et al., 2022).

The interweaving of class positions and nationality induces a great variety of privileged migratory experiences. Moreover, multiple power relations are added to this first level of disparity. This thematic dossier focuses on movements of people whose crossing of borders is facilitated by a dominant position in one or more power relations, whether it be nationality or class, but also race, religion, gender, sexuality, or age. The gradual recognition of this plurality of social relations has led to reconsider the place that nationality and the possession of an advantageous passport initially held in the analysis of migratory privilege. Without minimizing the weight of the latter, this thematic dossier welcomes contributions examining advantageous migratory positions that are part of a great plurality of geographical orientations, intercontinental or between neighboring countries, beyond the single North-South direction.

What does taking into account this plurality of social relations do to the very notion of privilege in migration? Following on from this gradual increase in the complexity of the study of privileged migration, this dossier aims to analyze the multiple power relations that are forged around international or overseas mobility (Cresswell, 2010; Croucher, 2012). The aim is to study the resources that enable this form of migration, the benefits that it generates, the social mobility that it induces, and the forms of domination that it consolidates or reconfigures.

This thematic dossier welcomes contributions that document dominant positions in migration, but also question the concept of migratory privilege and make it more complex, taking into account the plurality of social relations and their interweaving. Moreover, all privilege is relational and no dominant position exists per se: migratory privilege can be assessed not only in regard to several power relations, but also to the positions and claims of different social groups in a given context. The contributions in this thematic dossier can focus on what pre-migration social positions allow, i.e. the advantages they constitute vis-à-vis mobility. They can also address the way in which migration modulates class positions, gender and/or racial ascriptions, depending on local contexts. The study of international and overseas migration highlights the processual nature of resources and power relations, insofar as the change of geographical context modifies the social position of those who leave. The empirical study of privileged migrations particularly reveals the dynamics of social relations of race, insofar as the experience of migration recomposes the relationship between “majority” and “minority” groups and weakens the association of whiteness with neutrality (Guillaumin, 1972). To that extent, this thematic dossier intends to take seriously the imperative of “transnationalization” in the analysis of racial positions (Alloul, 2020).

Moreover, privilege in migration involves a subjective dimension. Often downplayed to be better defended (Ferber, 2012), privilege raises the question of the perception of social relations as much as that of their materiality. Its use in fieldwork or survey practice can raise questions, when the groups studied do not recognize themselves in the term “privileged” or perform moral work to justify and legitimize migratory benefits.

In order to understand the multidimensionality of social position and its fluctuations over the course of the migration process, this thematic dossier intends to analyze, in particular, situations of incongruence and ambivalence, where the advantageous character of a migration must be relativized in relation to other social relations or other geographical contexts. Holding dominant positions in class, nationality, and race relations, French women “expatriates” in Abu Dhabi nevertheless experience an intensified ascription to the domestic sphere (Cosquer, 2020). Despite the advantages available to young Cameroonian entrepreneurs of the diaspora in Europe, they strive to “whiten” their accents, reflecting a form of subjugation to dominant language norms along with a resistance to racialization (Telep, 2018). In this thematic dossier, the contributions pay particular attention to the mechanisms of racial ascription suffered despite a favorable class or gender position and the associated processes of invisibilization (Le Renard, 2019).

This thematic dossier thus has a twofold ambition. On the one hand, to take account of dominant positions characterized by the accumulation of resources, advantages and benefits accumulated through migration. On the other hand, to address more ambivalent migratory experiences where power relations intermingle the exercise of domination and the experience of minorization, and where migratory privilege must be nuanced. These situations can be usefully described using the analytical tools of intersectionality (Fassa et al., 2006 ; Bilge, 2010): although they were initially forged to study situations of cumulative disadvantage, these tools have subsequently been transposed to the analysis of hegemonic or more ambiguous positions, both dominated and dominant. Far from restricting itself strictly to this theoretical framework, this thematic dossier intends to present diverse contributions and to encourage hybridization with other analytical corpuses, such as the interactionist approach of “status inconsistency” (Hughes, 1945). Whatever the conceptual framework, an interest in the incongruities of power relations can enrich the analysis of domination (Pease, 2010), particularly by resisting its reification and essentialization.

This thematic dossier therefore intends to explore theoretically and empirically the notion of privilege in migration, which is heuristic in that it makes visible trajectories that are more rarely considered as objects in migration studies. It highlights the multidimensionality of this notion, its ambivalence, its processual character and, finally, the tension it maintains with the subjective experiences of migration and social mobility.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for articles should be written in French or English, and should include the author’s affiliation, a title and an abstract (1,000 words or 7,000 characters spaces included). They should clearly present the method, the data and the empirical and theoretical contribution of the article to the theme of the dossier. They can come from different disciplines of the social sciences, and should be sent to claire.cosquer@unil.ch, pauline.vallot@u-bourgogne.fr et olivier.clochard@univ-poitiers.fr

before February 1st, 2023.

Articles can be in French, English or Spanish.

Texts need to conform to house style (Link)


  • Start of the call: December 1st, 2022
  • Deadline to send abstracts and closure of the call: February 1st, 2023

  • Selection and decision: March 1st, 2023
  • Deadline to send articles: August 1st, 2022
  • Peer-review
  • Deadline to send articles in their latest version: February 1st, 2024
  • Publication: September 2024

Selection Committee/Coordination

  • Claire Cosquer (Sociologue, Research Fellow FNS Senior, Centre en Études Genre, University of Lausanne, and member of Institut Convergences Migrations)
  • Pauline Vallot (Sociologist, Lecturer, IREDU (Institut de recherche sur l’éducation), University of Bourgogne/INSPE Dijon)
  • Olivier Clochard (Geographer, Research Fellow, MIGRINTER, University of Poitiers/CNRS, and member of Institut Convergences Migrations)




Alloul Jaafar (2020) Leaving Europe, Aspiring Access: Racial Capital and Its Spatial Discontents among the Euro-Maghrebi Minority, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 18 (3), pp. 313-325.

Bilge Sirma (2010) De l’analogie à l’articulation : théoriser la différenciation sociale et l’inégalité complexe, L’Homme & la Société, 176-177 (2), pp. 43-64.

Conradson David and Latham Alan (2005) Transnational urbanism: Attending to everyday practices and mobilities, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 31 (2), pp. 227-233.

Cosquer Claire (2020) Une cage dorée ? Expériences genrées du privilège migratoire dans l’« expatriation », Sociologie, 11 (3), pp. 223-242.

Cosquer Claire, Le Renard Saba A. et Paris Myriam (2022) Devenir « métro » : ce que les migrations vers les outre-mer font à la blanchité, Critique Internationale, 2 (95).

Cresswell Tim (2010) Towards a politics of mobility, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28, pp. 17-31.

Croucher Sheila (2012) Privileged mobility in an age of globality, Societies, 2 (1), pp. 1-13.

Dezalay Yves (2004) Les courtiers de l’international : Héritiers cosmopolites, mercenaires de l’impérialisme et missionnaires de l’universel, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 151-152, pp. 4-35.

Faist Thomas (2013) The mobility turn: a new paradigm for the social sciences?, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36 (11), pp. 1637-1646.

Fassa Farinaz, Lépinard Éléonore et i Escoda Marta Roca (2006) L’intersectionnalité: pour une pensée contre-hégémonique, Journal of women’s studies, 13 (3), pp. 7-26.

Ferber Abby (2012) The Culture of Privilege: Color-blindness, Postfeminism, and Christonormativity, Journal of Social Issues, 68 (1), pp. 63-77.

Guillaumin Colette (1972) L’Idéologie raciste, genèse et langage actuel, Paris/La Haye, Mouton.

Hughes Everett C. (1945) Dilemmas and Contradictions of Status, American Journal of Sociology, 50 (5), pp. 353-359.

Le Bigot Brenda (2016) Les migrations hivernales des Européens vers le Maroc : circulations et constructions des espaces de vie, Autrepart, 77 (1), pp. 51-68.

Le Renard Amélie (2019) Le privilège occidental. Travail, intimité et hiérarchies postcoloniales à Dubaï, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po.

Pease Bob (2010) Undoing Privilege. Unearned Advantage in a Divided World, London, Zed Books.

Telep Suzie (2018) « Moi je whitise jamais ». Accent, subjectivité et processus d’accommodation langagière en contexte migratoire et postcolonial, Langage et société, 3, pp. 31-49.

Wagner Anne-Catherine (1998) Les nouvelles élites de la mondialisation. Une immigration dorée en France, Paris, Presses universitaires de France.


  • Wednesday, February 01, 2023


  • migration, transnational, outre-mer, privilège, domination, mobilité sociale, classe sociale, racialisation, genre, intersectionnalité, contradiction statutaire, oversea, privilege, social mobility, social class, racialization, gender, intersectionalit


  • Olivier Clochard
    courriel : olivier [dot] clochard [at] univ-poitiers [dot] fr
  • Claire Cosquer
    courriel : claire [dot] cosquer [at] unil [dot] ch
  • Pauline Vallot
    courriel : pauline [dot] vallot [at] u-bourgogne [dot] fr

Information source

  • Audrey Montépini
    courriel : remi [at] univ-poitiers [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« “Privileged Migrations” Studies and the Plurality of Power Relations », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, December 08, 2022, https://calenda.org/1038442

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