There are two common responses that almost everyone who studies the Migration and Forced Migration master’s programmes at the University of Oxford encounter after they tell someone the subject of their studies. Either it includes something along the lines of ‘oh that’s a hot topic!’, or otherwise, ‘do you mean migration as in bird migration?’. Interestingly, I’ve found that the reply to these questions by most of the students is similarly uniform. It includes a denial of the student’s ostensibly opportunistic motivations for studying migration as the issue pervades news headlines or a bumbling attempt to explain the content of the course: ‘it’s interdisciplinary…’. However, after completing the master’s programmes the sentiment of these questions seems to have taken on a new kind of relevance to us, the editorial team of Routed Magazine. They speak to the fundamental reasons why we started Routed in Autumn 2018.
The idea that migration is a ‘hot topic’ can make a migration specialist or scholar feel uncomfortable about the academic environment they work in. Some academic work on migration can be accused of being removed from the realities of migration, privileging ‘policy relevance’ to the detriment of humanitarian concerns. However, it is also the case that there are significant gaps between the sorts of slow research and analysis demanded in an academic environment and the fast-paced sensationalism that pervade media headlines on migration. It is this divide that Routed Magazine seeks to bridge. The complexity of migration requires carefully analysis that unpacks the histories and categories through which migration is understood. Our word-limit on articles is relatively short at around 1000 words. The task for writers is to think about the tensions inherent to and differing perspectives on an issue before making a concise argument in a popular style. It is a tall-order but the high-calibre of our first issue on Roots and Routes released in February 2019 included an eclectic mix of personal stories, in-depth news analysis and cultural criticism. It’s warm reception across the world is an indicator of what is to come from the magazine.
The second idea that students could be studying ‘bird migration’ rather than human migration is also relevant to the motivations for the magazine’s foundation. This resonates with the Routed team’s concern than when we talk about migration and movement we should not only be talking about human movement. At Routed we embrace the idea that migration, conventionally understood as a human moving from one area to another usually across a border for a meaningful length of time, is only one part of the constant universal flow of materials and ideas. Whether talking about the free flow of capital across globalised economies or the dominance of cars over bikes on our city roads Routed wishes to publish on issues of (im)mobilities of all kinds. The public may ask: ‘is Routed about birds? Is it about planes? Is it about migrants?’, to which we will respond it is about all three, and more.
The fundamental motivation for Routed arose out of everyone on the editorial board’s personal desire to continue writing about the issues which affect us as matters of concern. We are all in different capacities involved in activism, voluntary support and research surrounding migration around the world – from Madrid to the Mediterranean, London to Glasgow. We seek to make a difference ‘in the real world’ and see magazine culture and the arts more broadly as excellent ways of contributing politically to debates.
One of the best parts of Routed’s public presence is our utilisation of social media. Within weeks of setting up and our first publication Routed has already attracted close to 200 followers on Facebook and more than 250 followers on Twitter. We are also expanding into Instagram and other social media accounts. As the writers and editors live across the world we work extensively with social media and sharing platforms to sustain communication across time-zones. We are all unpaid and the project requires significant amounts of time and money. However, our collective commitment to migration issues and the excitement generated from creatively developing the project means we have sustained momentum in writing and editing articles, attracting contributors, developing a team ethos, establishing a legal identity and organising the finances of our publication.
After months of preparation to establish Routed Magazine we are now happy to allow the creative side of the magazine to flourish. At the same time, we have developed a strong appreciation for the intensive work required to build and sustain a creative group-project. Articles are published in both English and Spanish and we seek contributions from different languages around the world. We hope our project can expand opportunities for graduate students to publicise their work and build networks with people and places interested in migration and (im)mobility around the world. In this way we want Routed to stand as a testament to the idea that master’s programmes can be more about the importance of sharing knowledge and ideas rather than simply stepping stones on to the career ladder.
As well as writing, Routed is a multi-media publication and we encourage the contribution of artistic visualisations, drawings and graphs within articles or on their own. One of the most exciting Routed projects in the pipeline is the Routed-Podcast. In this we intend to hold discussions with academics and specialists in the migration-field about projects they are working on or books they have recently written.
Please see our website for an idea about the content of our magazine and check our social media pages and mailing list for information regarding our call for submissions. We look forward to reading your contributions!
About the author: Max Cohen is an Editor, Contributor & Twitter Officer at Routed Magazine. After completing the MSc Migration Studies at Oxford University he is currently travelling, reading and researching while in the process of applying for a PhD in Economic Geography. He is interested in a broad range of social and political issues from political economy to musicology.