Asia on the Move: Research Challenges for Population Geography

Graeme Hugo here elaborates a wide-ranging argument for the relevance of population geography to the question of international migration among the increasingly migratory populations of East Asia.
I found the article speaks to the increasingly complex global system of flows, encompassing goods, capital, and ideas as well as humans. Amidst what I’d call a general weakening of the sovereignty of states and a concomitant increase in their interdependence, the world of humans and their stuff resembles one unified system more obviously than ever before. At the same time, this world is massively chaotic, and while it was at some point relatively simple to analyze European immigration to America as a function of birthrates, automation of rural farm labour, and the growth of the American economy, the cyclical, multi-directional flows of human beings in and out of Asia in the 1990s rightly (as Hugo demonstrates) demands a different approach to understand.

And what of GI Science and big data? Hugo doesn’t delve as deeply into the complex methods he outlines as I would have liked, but with the multiplying ways that human beings can leave a recognisable trace today, I would argue that it has become generally easier to track even undocumented migrants. As evidence I’d present the exhibition “Forensis,” presented at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2014, which documents a multidisciplinary evidence-gathering effort undertaken to prove that NATO warships intentionally ignored a sinking ship full of African migrants. The researchers used advanced statistical methods, remote sensing data, modelling and visualization techniques, as well as human rights law to successfully mount a case against NATO in international courts. As we hone our techniques for detecting human beings, questions of our responsibility for them are naturally raised.

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