Knowledge production, reflexivity, and the use of categories in migration studies: tackling challenges in the field

Dahinden, Janine; Fischer, Carolin; Menet, Joanna (2021). Knowledge production, reflexivity, and the use of categories in migration studies: tackling challenges in the field Ethnic and Racial Studies, 44(4), pp. 535-554. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/01419870.2020.1752926

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Recent debates in migration studies target the non-reflexive use of categories that derive from nation-state- and ethnicity-centred epistemologies. However, what a category is and how categorization works remain undertheorized. Our paper addresses this gap. Through a qualitative study on experiences of Othering among migrant descendants in Zurich (CH) and Edinburgh (UK), we scrutinize the perspectival, political, and performative nature of categories. We show how the persons informing our study were highly reflexive when using the category migrant descendant: They contested, negotiated, and navigated it in multiple ways. Although this specific category is firmly embedded in the “national order of things”, it ultimately proved to be inclusive. We argue that reflexivity in the field can not only create space for the often-muted voices of research participants, but also helps to overcome important pitfalls that derive from issues of legitimacy, representation, and power relations in scientific knowledge production.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Social Work > Institute for Social and Cultural Diversity
School of Social Work
BFH Centres and strategic thematic fields > Thematic field "Caring Society"


Dahinden, Janine;
Fischer, Carolin0000-0002-5995-5114 and
Menet, Joanna


H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races




Taylor & Francis




Carolin Fischer

Date Deposited:

29 Jan 2024 14:38

Last Modified:

29 Jan 2024 14:38

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Reflexivity; categorization; knowledge co-production; migrant descendants; post-migration societies; nation-state- and ethnicity-centred epistemologies


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