Despite its wide-spread popularity, the theoretical returns from migration research have been relatively small. This general statement also applies to the subfields of migration research where geographers participate in the interdisciplinary endeavour. Yet what are the reasons for the theoretical deadlock? This paper reveals that both critical and affirmative migration studies often maintain an unreflected relationship with the object of investigation: Problems and answers are not defined by science but by others. This unreflected relationship between science and the object of investigation will be analysed within the two classic migration topics ‘international migrations’ and ‘segregation/integration’ as well as a recent field of research which was and still is influenced by ‘post’-theories. The embedding of migration research in general social theory or more precisely in systems theory could provide a possible avenue out of this impasse, since systems theory, as a theory of observation, reappears within itself.