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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .


Ethnicity and Globalisation
Stephen Castles

London: Sage Publications, 2000
240pp. Biblio. Index. Pb.: 16.99; ISBN 0-7619-5612-3.



Stephen Castles book is a collection of essays that span almost his entire career as a researcher and scholar of migration, racism and identity. So despite the title, the book's main focus is on migration. But Castles makes quite clear why this happens to be: "Why give migration such prominence? Because it plays a key part in most contemporary social transformations" (124), among which ethnicity and globalization can be found as either a cause, an effect or subject of change.

And to view and review these transformations Castles presents us with empirical data and theoretical analysis from over 3 decades of research. Starting with a section of essays he gives a theoretical account of the beginning of migration to the industrialized countries of Western Europe in the 50s, 60s and early 70s, where much labour was needed to rebuild the war affected countries, especially in Germany, one of his main areas at that time. These essays give a good overview of what impact labour migration made on Germany and other European Countries during that time. 'The guests that stayed' is a phrase that catches the situation many European countries were facing, when they started migration, thinking it was temporary but it was in fact permanent.

He goes on from there to study the phenomenon comparatively, with studies on Britain, Canada and especially Australia, the latter getting special attention in one of the chapters on multicultural citizenship. Migration in the Asia Pacific Region as well as the relation between globalization and migration in the 90s are discussed. Throughout his essays, although not written as one book, Castles never looses sight of the important elements which make his work strong. These are the role of racism, the complexity of migration and effect these processes have on peoples identities in the receiving as well as in the sending countries, given the changes that occur over time. Seeing migration as a process which changed many countries and eventually led to a variety of multicultural societies throughout the world, this collection of essays also documents the theoretical changes that have taken place in migration and identity research over the past 30 years, on which he reflects in his introduction.

Given the wide range of years from which the articles are drawn while focusing on the same subject, there are some repetitions throughout the book, which for someone with experience in this field may not be too interesting. As for others that want to get an overview on the topic, this is an excellent book. The book is not only be a historical account of migration research, it also serves as a starting point for future research, providing good and new ideas for research on a very complex matter, i.e. the relationship between globalization, migration and racism.

Its only weak point is its discussion of the subject of ethnicity itself, which comes up many times, but never really is discussed or defined, given the fact that this is a hard task to do. Although claiming to have an interdisciplinary approach, he is sometimes lacking an anthropological understanding and a more cultural driven notion of ethnicity. But other than that, this is a good and worthwhile read.


Nils Zurawski: University of Muenster / Germany



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