Reframing ‘Integration’: Acknowledging and addressing five core critiques

Sarah Spencer*, Katharine Charsley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
199 Downloads (Pure)


Empirical and theoretical insights from the rich body of research on ‘integration’ in migration studies have led to increasing recognition of its complexity. Among European scholars, however, there remains no consensus on how integration should be defined nor what the processes entail. Integration has, moreover, been the subject of powerful academic critiques, some decrying any further use of the concept. In this paper we argue that it is both necessary and possible to address each of the five core critiques on which recent criticism has focused: normativity; negative objectification of migrants as ‘other’; outdated imaginary of society; methodological nationalism; and a narrow focus on migrants in the factors shaping integration processes. We provide a definition of integration, and a revised heuristic model of integration processes and the ‘effectors’ that have been shown to shape them, as a contribution to a constructive debate on the ways in which these challenges for empirical research can be overcome.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18 (2021)
Number of pages22
JournalComparative Migration Studies
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2021


  • integration
  • assimilation
  • normativity
  • methodological nationalism
  • heuristic model
  • effectors


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