AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 514

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Session 514: Migration: Social Mobility and Displacement

Organizer: Habibul H. Khondker, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates

Discussant: Namie Tsujigami, University of Kochi, Japan

Migration is the most visible feature of globalization. The process debated, defended, discouraged, shows no signs of slowing, revealing the complex and often contradictory dynamics of the historical as well as contemporary phases of globalization. As hundreds of thousands of people move to far-flung destinations, some gain, some lose, others remain deeply ambivalent. They move to one destination, yet in their imagination they belong elsewhere, either to the homeland they left behind or a future destination they are aspiring to move to. This panel will examine: to what extent migration, an instance of geographical mobility, leads to social mobility for the migrants and to what extent migrant experience is that of an experience of displacement? The key theme of the workshop would be to go beyond the conventional wisdom of viewing migration, either as a win-win or losing proposition, explore the deep undercurrents of trauma, sense of displacement and aspiration for a golden future. Political economy trespasses into cultural studies, prose of existential sufferings blend with romance of expedition, of wunderlast , economic calculus intersects with a sense of (cultural) loss. Classes and gender intersect with community and religion. The papers in this panel are drawn from scholars, policy-makers, civil society activists from a wide range of disciplines (e.g., anthropology, sociology, gender studies, etc.). Individual papers might focus primarily on one region or one nationality of migrants, in the end the panel would take a comparative perspective merging the diverse papers reflecting a range of themes covering both cultural and institutional discourses.

Who Cares? Economic and Social Mobility through Carework: The Case of Filipino Women in Japan
Ma. Reinaruth D. Carlos, Ryukoku University, Japan

The migration of Filipinos to Japan since the 1980s has been characterized to be predominantly women who have gone to Japan to work as entertainers and/or to intermarry with the Japanese. Such trend in the history of Philippines-Japan migration has resulted in Filipinos being the 4th largest ethnic community in Japan in 2009, with 77% of them women and 78% holding visas allowing them to stay (almost) indefinitely in the country. In this presentation, I focus on these Filipino women who have considered working in the caregiving sector of Japan as a means to achieve not only economic but also social mobility. What are the main economic and cultural factors that have made their incorporation in this labor market possible? How does carework impact on their economic and social status in this country that has generally unfavorable impressions towards these women? Can they be a reliable and stable source of caregivers in this aged host society? I shall attempt to answer these questions based on my field surveys and interviews and finally make some policy recommendations that can facilitate their further and more active participation in this labor market.

Bangladeshi Migrant Women in the UAE: Displacement or Status gain?
Mehraj Jahan, Independent Researcher, Bangladesh

Since the rise of petroleum prices in the mid-1970s, a large number of migrant workers have made the Gulf their destination. Many of these migrant workers are women who work as domestic help in the Gulf countries. Migration experience opens a new world of experience for the female migrant workers. The focus of this paper is to explore the changes in the life-world of the female South Asian domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates. Most of the recent studies on domestic workers focus on the vulnerability of the women workers in alien lands. Many women are trafficked into jobs other than they were promised. Most of the studies reveal sad and sordid stories of exploitation and oppression. In this paper we do not discount such matters and are fully aware of the risks these women take and the processes of their victimization. However, in the present paper we want to consider both sides of migration: displacements as well as upward social mobility. The issue of the coping strategies of these women is also explored. Based on intensive interviews with Bangladeshi domestic workers in Abu Dhabi and tracing their families back in Bangladesh, we explore the everyday life of these women in search of better opportunities and financial security in a faraway land. We see them as exercising their agency and turn around a gloomy situation into hope and survival and even empowerment

Dams, Development and Dislocation in India
Arnab Roy Chowdhury, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Dams and hydroelectric projects have been the sole largest cause of Development Induced Displacement (DID) and dislocation in the postcolonial India. After 1947 around 3600 dams have been constructed in India, with 700 more undergoing construction. According to the official estimate made by Government of India (GOI) and the World Bank, altogether these projects have displaced over 4.4 million people, which though is a miscalculation in a gross statistical manner is a large figure still and if other factors like livelihood displacements are included the numbers will soar further. As number of studies point out that displacement entails complex policy issues of land acquisition, law, gender, human rights, compensation, culture, reparation and a number of other issues related to it. Moreover, the phenomena of displacement has been individualized and not dealt with taking the community as a whole, consequently there are innumerable vicious cycles of marginalizations that the oustees go through due to disruption of family ties, community networks and support. To address this policy gap, the GOI formulated a National Policy for Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project Affected Families in 2003 which was refurbished in 2006 to expand its boundary, but as the literature of social science dealing with the displacement issues has moved from displacement to resettlement- to rehabilitation- to relocation and further to ‘radical movement’ approach by increasingly molding the ‘victimological’ portrayal of the displaced to lending ‘voices of power’ to the marginalized; the GOI policy of resettlement has remained in its naively incipient stage. In this paper I argue that the limits of GOI resettlement policy have to be further expanded by embracing an analytically nuanced and holistic approach.

Negotiating Remittance: South Asian Migrants
Ann Vogel, Penang Institute, Turkey

This paper examines the institutionalization of the formal remittance banking sector along remittance corridors between migrants of South Asia in their temporary workplace destinations and their family households at their origin destinations. Global governance institutions have given much support for the diffusion of formal banking and financial services, arguing that informal remittance transfer systems provide problems of national security, uncertainty for migrants and migrant households as well as problems of national accounting for labor-exporting governments. Critical research has examined the informal economy pertaining to remittance economy to find a suspicious hyper-talk of security problems that contrasts with economically established small entrepreneuralism of money transfer entrenched for hundreds of years in Asian communities. This current debate of remittance-transfer formalization takes place far away from organized migrant interests. In this study, we look at the advantages and disadvantages for migrants and their families from their own perspective as has been made accessible by social science research. We focus on the experiences of India and Nepal, to highlight the context of entrenched poverty in which plans for the formalization of remittance banking takes place. Taking an economic-sociological perspective, we examine the importance of trust and understanding of money in poor migrant households and analyze what it takes to establish formal financial services, but also what it takes away from in terms of social organization of South Asian community dynamics.