Decolonizing Migration Studies: A Chicanx Studies Perspective and Critique of Colonial Sociological Origins


  • Christian Ramirez


Sociological research on international migration shares a fundamental question: What underlining forces drive migration? Sociologists use a number of theories such as neoclassical economics, new economics of migration, network theory, segmented labor market theory, and world systems theory among others to untangle the complexities of individual and group migration patterns. These theoretical propositions, and the methodological applications that are informed by them, are colonial in their epistemic origins and assumptions. Explored in this paper are the assumptions, limitations, and the epistemic privileging within westernized migration studies and sociology. Chicanx Studies systematically addresses this question by confronting colonization’s impact on how we contemporarily study, measure, and analyze human behavior including migration. Moreover, the discipline works to humanize Chicanx populations and their historic migratory life ways. For borderland theorist Gloria Anzaldúa the underling force that drives Chicanx and Mexican migration is their ontological and epistemological connection to their indigenous tradition of “long walks” across recent politicized borders. Her work contributes to migration studies’ lack of epistemic diversity and also gives insight to the historical relationship Chicanxs have with migratory practices to other parts of the U.S. beyond the Southwest.