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University of Witwatersrand

Myth and Decision in South African Migration Management and Research

Loren B. Landau

University of the Witwatersrand

November 2004

Paper prepared for the African Migration Alliance Workshop, 10-11 March 2005, Pretoria South Africa.
Comments on the paper can be sent to the author at
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This essay explores the power of myths in shaping migration research and policymaking. It begins by arguing that policy and inquiry in all policy subject areas are framed by sets of assumptions that define research agendas and limit how organizations and individuals consider complex social realities. More than in many fields, these cognitive boundaries, together with practical difficulties and embedded sets of ethical values heighten the power of myths over scientifically collected information in shaping migration policy and research. By interrogating five myths surrounding migration in South Africa, this paper illustrates the need to question existing policy presumptions and research questions while highlighting the value of supplementing demographic and economic analyses with studies of institutional learning and policy formation.

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