Multinational Migrations: Onward Migration Patterns and Possibilities in Asia and Beyond
Date : 27 Sep 2018 - 28 Sep 2018
Venue : AS8 Level 4, Seminar Room 04-04
10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC

This workshop is jointly organised by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, and the Yale-NUS College, Singapore; with support from the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration, USA.

A growing body of migration scholarship has highlighted the inadequacies of a single-origin-single-destination model for thinking about international migration in the 21st century. Even as more and more people around the world are moving out of their country of birth and into a new one, many of them subsequently move again to a third (or fourth or fifth) country. Literature on the “global elite” demonstrates that this class of expatriate migrants tends to hold careers with built-in multi-national mobility expectations. At the same time, scholarship on irregular migrants has documented how they are also driven by long-term mobility aspirations and also often travel across multiple countries, though typically through undocumented means. Meanwhile, middle-rung migrants – IT professionals, nurses, international students, and even domestic workers and sex workers – have been observed adopting “stepwise international migration” patterns as they seek to leverage the human, economic, social, and cultural capital they acquire in one overseas destination to secure access to another, preferred overseas destination.

Several terms – onward, stepwise, serial, secondary, triangular, multiple, and transit migration – have been coined to describe these multiple moves within a single migratory lifetime, but the lack of consensus on the terminology to use to describe these migrations is indicative of the lack of theoretical clarity on this emergent phenomenon. Understanding these overlapping categories of “multi-national migrants” and the factors that lead to the emergence of these onward migration patterns requires a concerted, comparative effort on the part of migration scholars. This workshop would do just that, bringing together scholars whose research investigates various patterns of multinational migration across a range of migrant categories and spanning multiple world regions, but with a particular focus on multinational migration journeys that originate, terminate, or pass through Asia.

The workshop will advance the nascent but growing body of scholarly research on the various categories of onward migration that have been observed around the world, their causes, constraints, and consequences for the onward migrants themselves and also the sending, intermediate, and receiving communities/countries. Scholars who engage in comparative research across multiple categories of onward migrants or multiple populations will be addressing the following questions:

  • What is the role of individual agency versus opportunity structure within the adoption of a multi-national migration?
  • How does the emergence of multi-national migrations affect or alter international migration theory?
  • What is the relationship between the emergence of multi-national migrations and the international migration regime?
  • How are particular transnational stepwise pathways structured by broader overarching structures (e.g. the temporary migration regime in Asia and the barriers to residency and citizenship for example) which in turn structure migrants’ migration goals and aspirations?
  • How does the emergence of multi-national migration relate to non-migration and immobility?
  • How do historical patterns of colonial migrations and diasporas influence more recent trends in secondary migration in and out of nation-states?
  • What methods are best suited to studying multi-national migration as a potentiality and an actuality?


Associate Professor Anju Mary Paul
Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Professor Brenda Yeoh
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore