2018•07•23 Barcelona, Spain
Gender, Work and Migration: Agency in Gendered Labour Settings
Leading researchers in the fields of migration and integration explored current theories at the United Nations University Institute of Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM)’s ‘Meet the Authors’ evening. Held at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI), the event offered opportunity to debate findings presented by leading academics in their recently published books.
Firstly, Dr. Megha Amrith and Dr. Nina Sahraoui discussed their book ‘Gender, Work and Migration: Agency in Gendered Labour Settings’ with commentator, Dr. Annabelle Wilkins. They were also joined by Paloma Moré who contributed a chapter, “’Here We Don’t Only Receive Orders’: (Dis)empowering Care Labour in Madrid and Paris” to the book.
Wilkins opened by commending the book for being “really successful in amplifying voices of not only migrants – but also those whose lives are shaped by migration. Also key, is the book’s engagement with masculinities, as often research on migration and gender is assumed to be focused on women.”
Praising the diverse selection of case studies included within the book, focused on migrants from countries such as Philippines, Bolivia, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mauritius, Brazil and India, among others, Wilkins added: “Bringing these unique perspectives together enables us to consider emotional labour, professionalization and empowerment of working migrants.”
Discussion also focused on domestic work being categorized as ‘low-skilled’ and undervalued because it is widely perceived as ‘natural’ that women undertake this work.
“For domestic workers who live in employer homes, it can be a place of surveillance, control, even forms of micro-racism and aggression. These private spheres have the capacity of hiding dangerous realities like abuse and exploitation.” Amrith said, “Yet, it is important to challenge the dichotomy between the public and private”.
The ethnographic perspective brought out through consideration of many individual experiences, also initiated debate around migrant agency.
Sahraoui commented, “Agency is produced and generated through gender, class, citizenship. It is not obtained in a vacuum. Aspirations and motivations of working migrants are expressions of agency.
She continued: “Usually migrants are presented as victims, but we wanted to focus on experiences and strategies of empowerment and, throughout the book, to offer a different perspective of migrants.”
Dr. Megha Amrith (Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and former Research Fellow at the United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility)
Dr. Nina Sahraoui (Research Associate at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute)
Editors of ‘Gender, Work and Migration: Agency in Gendered Labour Settings’ (Routledge, 2018)
This book focuses on migrant employed in sectors of the economy that are typically regarded as marginal or precarious – domestic and care work in private settings, cleaning work in hospitals, call centre labour, informal trade – to understand the aspirations and mobilities of migrants in relation to questions of gender and labour.
With commentator: Dr. Annabelle Wilkins (Research Fellow on the WORKANDHOME project within Geography and Environment at the University of Southampton)