Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Cities, migration and global interdependence

The research programme Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence (CMGI) focuses on urbanisation, migration, and economic development in a comparative and global context. The central question that guides our research is: How did individual lives change between 1350 and 2000 by processes of city growth, increasing mobility, and global interaction? Put another way, how did globalisation, industrialisation, and state formation alter urban environments, mobility patterns, gender roles, and mentalities, both at the local and at the global level?

Marlou Schrover

The research programme Cities, Migration and Global Interdependence focuses on processes of urbanisation, mobility, economic development, and the increase in global interaction. It seeks to explain when, how and why these processes changed and how these changes affected the lives of people, and organisational infrastructures (at the group, local, national and international level). How did ordinary people experience major changes of the past? Why did some societies achieve more economic growth than others? Why are some inequalities more persistent than others? Who had access to power and how did certain groups manage to exclude others from power? When and why did collective action occur?

Within our research programme we look at the movement of people, goods, services, capital, and ideas. We study the means by which actors influence these changes, but also the restrictions they encounter, which can be demographic, physical, spatial, political, institutional, legal, technical, financial, and imagined. In short, our research programme focuses on the ways that men and women created social, cultural, and economic processes and how these processes affected them. Without losing sight of the value of individual experiences in historical analysis, CMGI attempts to analyse the aggregate or structural level of social groups, networks, and polities, and tries to understand how people are empowered and limited by both formal and informal institutions.

CMGI aims at understanding larger processes and mechanisms of change over time, by focusing on: 

  • Urban and state institutions and their effects on inclusion and exclusion; 
  • Social engineering, criminality and urban subcultures; 
  • Changing labour relations in capitalist institutions and their relations to economic development; 
  • The (gendered) interaction between migration and membership regimes in different parts of the world and the effects of societal categorisation in making distinctions between migrants and non-migrants; 
  • Development of freedoms and unfreedoms; 
  • Cross-cultural commercial networks, cultural exchanges and comparative socio-economic systems in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial world and Systems of Empires.

We make comparisons over time – 1350-2000 – and space. We combine historical research with methods, theories and insights from the social sciences, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, and economics. We pay systematic attention to the intersection of categories of analysis such as gender, class, religion, sexuality and race/ethnicity, which are elements of power and equality/inequality, and defining elements of identity (personal, social, legal), social location, opportunity, and experience (see figure below).

What is important for our research programme are theories on civil society, mobility, agency, intersectionality, orientalism, network formation, governmentality, civilisation, social movements, public sphere, social cohesion, imagined communities, and forms of capital.

Connection with other research