Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Mumbai | Tuljapur | Guwahati | Hyderabad

International Conference on 'The Migrant and the State'


Nov. 29, 2018 - Dec. 1, 2018

Venue: Centre for Development Practice and Research, Takshila Campus, Patna

Centre For Development Practice and Research

TISS Patna Centre (https://goo.gl/wGf2U6)


International Conference on Migration

"The Migrant and the State: From Colonialism to Neoliberalism"


For detailed Programme Schedule, click here.

Concept Note

The latest Economic Survey (2016-17) of the Government of India has a full chapter devoted to interstate migration in the country. Titled ‘India on the Move and Churning: New Evidence,’ the chapter begins with a quote by B. R. Ambedkar: ‘An ideal society should be mobile, should be full of channels for conveying a change taking place in one part to other parts.’[1] Clearly in its present outlook on migration the Indian government strives to make a positive connection between mobility of labour and large scale social transformation facilitated through the channels of this mobility riding on a new set of evidence from novel methods of enumeration like Cohort-based Migration Metric and Railway Passenger Data based Metric that show a considerable increase in the volume of interstate migration in comparison with the provisional D-5 tables in the 2011 Census. Notwithstanding the correctness of the estimates, we may infer that the Indian state is considering the phenomenon of migration not only as a means of economic development but also as an instrument of effecting social transformation by governing the flow and direction of the movement of the working population. The desire to identify and manage the potential workers on the move is also palpable in the two observations made in the study: (1) the female workforce is a highly potential agent of development and (2) the expansion and integration of the labour markets require portability of food security benefits, healthcare and basic social security provisions through better interstate coordination entailing re-imagination of the federal structure of the country.

It does not need saying that the relatively recent interest in migration has a long history that can be traced back to the days of colonialism, slavery and indentured labour. The relationship between the state and the migrant has gone through many a mutation since then; the mutuality of their existence has also been sifted by a range of seemingly external forces, institutions and processes. However, according to Timothy Mitchell, the debate about the elusive boundary between the state and the non-state entities has a tendency to assume inaccurately that the division is external to their respective forms and mechanisms.[2] The same division is again reinforced in the often contradictory understandings about the state either as an abstract concept or as an amalgam of well defined functions and material practices. The problem with this definitive position is that it often obscures the politics that contributes to the internalisation of the externalities between the state and non-state entities. It is therefore imperative to follow the trails of this elusive boundary as we live in a time when both the notions of a strong and a weak state can exist simultaneously and operate in the same plane of material interventions. Migration seems to be a potent site of studying these processes in the sense that it stages the enactment of flexing boundaries repeatedly and often in ways that reproduce the logic of externalisation of the non-state entities like the society or the economy. In the same token, it also reintroduces the state in our imagination as an effect of a boundary-making exercise where the limits of economic development, social churning and reordering of the state interact with each other and produce novel forms of governmental apparatuses.    

The International Conference on the dynamic and ever-changing relationship between the state and the migrant aims to meet the timely demand of chronicling these interactive, interspersed narratives of mutuality where the figure of the migrant is produced in the various domains of statist paraphernalia over the last two hundred years. At the same time, it will focus on histories of the reinforcement of the state – both as ideas and material realities – in our collective political imagination by eliciting various other flexible boundaries between the market and the state, the legal and the illegal, the formal and the informal and the mobile and the sedentary. The broad thrust of the conference will be on (a) how significantly different is the ‘postcolonial condition’ from colonialism with respect to the relationship between the state and the migrant; (b) what is the specificity of the neoliberal refashioning of the state in dealing with the mobile workforce; and (c) how new technologies of enumeration and intervention affect the state’s perceptions of and expectations from the migrant.

Paper presentations will be around the following themes and related areas:

1.      Migrant labour in the colonial period

2.      Identity, violence, and displacement

3.      Governance

4.      Agrarian relations

5.      Urbanization

6.      Social Movements

7.      Gender

8.      Labour

Apart from the paper presenters, a select number of policy makers, academics from university, colleges and research institutions, students, and people belonging to civil society organisations, trade unions, and media are expected to attend the conference.

Follow-up Activities

The conference will facilitate three follow-up activities. First, a report of the conference will be prepared keeping in focus the implications of the governmental policies related to migration. This report will be circulated among governmental and non-governmental agencies and other interested organisations for consideration. Second, a select number of lectures and presentations from the conference will be published in more than one volume of essays on migration from eminent publishing houses. And third, a network of researchers, policy makers and civil society organisations will be created.

Conference Organisers

1.      Prof. Pushpendra Kumar Singh, Professor and Chairperson, TISS Patna

2.      Dr. Mithilesh Kumar, Assistant Professor, TISS Patna

3.      Shri Neeraj Kumar, Programme Manager, TISS Patna



[1] The Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Economic Survey, Vol. 1, p. 264.

[2] Timothy Mitchell, ‘The Limits of the State: Beyond Statist Approaches and Their Critics’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 85, No. 1, (1991), pp. 77-96; Timothy Mitchell, ‘Society, Economy and the State Effect’ in Aradhana Sharma and Akhil Gupta (eds.), The Anthropology of the State: A Reader (Malden, USA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), pp. 169-86.

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