06 November 2010

The Atlas of Human Migration

Written by Published in Book Reviews

When photographer Sebastião Salgado produced a major exhibition on migration, he spoke of migration as ‘the complete reorganisation of humanity’, and declared that he wanted to show ‘that a true human family can only be built on foundations of solidarity and sharing’

The Atlas of Human Migration, a collaborative effort by five authors at the University of Sussex, is a very useful fact-based exploration of the same theme. Using extensive full-colour atlas maps, the authors trace the story of migration from its historical roots through economic and political perspectives to the current context of a global movement. 

The detail is impressive. The underlying reasons why, how, and where migration takes place are laid out for us. And by showing the range of people involved in the flow – children, students, would-be spouses, skilled and unskilled workers, members of their family, retired people, people returning to their country of origin – the Atlas reveals a complex contemporary global movement. Educational, economic, conflict-driven and environmental contexts underpin a narrative presented through maps, graphs, fact boxes, pie charts, lists and, most striking to the eye, colour-coded arrows demonstrating the flow of humanity.

Extensively researched, statistics-driven and therefore inevitably lacking the personal, testimonial, human touch, I would recommend this book as an accompaniment to an exploration of the theme from a creative angle, such as Salgado’s Migrations. Together as such, one would inform the other, and be powerful in complementation.

The Atlas of Human Migration by Russell King, Michael Collyer, Anthony Fielding and Ronald Skeldo (Earthscan) £12.99 

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