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What’s a Membership Regime?

Membership Regimes encompass the rules, beliefs and resources that impact the settlement and integration of migrants in a polity, and which, in turn were themselves shaped by constant renegotiations between rival interests - including those of the migrants themselves.

For their study of migration in a world-historical perspective Bosma, Kessler and Lucassen coined the term ‘membership regimes’ which encompasses the rules, regulations, customs and values surrounding the permanent settlement and integration (be it social, economic or political integration) of migrants in any polity. We extend this definition to include also those resources whose availability were constrained by those same rules, regulations, customs and values.

In its original formulation and application in a global historical context ‘membership regimes’ were conceived as somewhat static, with the rise of the nation-state seen as a significant watershed between pre-modern and modern membership regimes. Such generalisations may certainly be valid in drawing a larger historical picture, but run the risk of losing track of the processes by which change in membership regimes were effected. More to the point, they tend to see membership regimes as expressions of deeply rooted cultural attitudes largely unaffected by political, economic, social changes including, curiously, migration.

In Migrants and Membership Regimes in the Ancient Greek World we take a different approach. We proceed from the hypothesis that (1) a given membership regime was determined by a continuous negotiation between rival groups over scarce resources, (2) that this negotiation was in turn constrained by the same institutions, and may therefore be said to be both shaped by and a shaper of competition between rival groups within society. The implication is that membership regimes, as we think of them, were constantly renegotiated under the pressures of both insiders and outsiders, and by competing interests within both.

Further Reading

Bosma, U. Kessler, G. and Lucassen, L. 2014. ’Migration and Membership Regimes in Global and Historical Perspective: An Introduction in Bosma, U. Kessler, G. and Lucassen, L (eds) Migration and Membership Regimes in Global and Historical Perspective: An Introduction. Leiden. 1-20.

De Ligt, L. and Tacoma, L.E. 2016. ’Approaching Migration in the Early Roman Empire’ in De Ligt, L. and Tacoma, L.E. (eds). Migration and Mobility in the Early Roman Empire. Brill. 1-22.

Hall, P.A. and Taylor, R.C.R. 1996. ‘Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms’, Political Studies 44. 936-57.

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