Accepted paper:

Mobility and the Capabilities Approach- Fragments, Foresights, and Fantasies


Kundan Mishra (University of Massachusetts Boston)

Paper short abstract:

The structural explanations of economic growth extended to rural-urban undermine the agency of migrants. Through a review of the structural approaches to rural-urban migration, this paper highlights the knowledge gaps regarding agency of migrants and proposes a framework that addresses concerns.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I review the literature on rural-urban migration to understand two key aspects of rural-urban migration. First, how has the theoretical relationship evolved with the changing narrative on economic development? I revisit the key efforts that understand and problematize rural-urban migration, according to the changing narratives of economic development. Second, this paper critiques the conceptualizations of agency in the theorizing of migration and highlights the lack of research on the interaction between agency and structure. Further, I argue that the household as a unit of analysis is under-researched. To this end, I summarize key empirical works to highlight the relationship between their ontological and epistemological focus. Subsequently, I argue that the household represents the interaction between structural changes and agency of migrants. With a review of human capital and human security approaches to rural-urban migration, this paper problematizes the decision to migrate in the absence of any notable improvement in well-being, exemplified by the case of seasonal migration. Through this review, the paper identifies how capabilities approach is suited to understand the agency of migrants at individual, household and community level. The paper proposes a framework to capture agency of migrants through the negotiation between the agency of a migrant household and its well-being. The paper then presents key questions towards a research agenda around the agency of migrants. While the second section lays emphasis on rural-urban migration, it also elaborates on how the framework can be adapted for other contexts of forced and voluntary migration.

panel J01
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