Working Paper: Western Orientalism and Chinese counter-narratives in anti-trafficking fictions

 Western benevolence in the Trafficking in People reports

Critical feminists have analysed the discourse of anti-trafficking as working in traditional (Western) gendered and neo-imperialist terms, in political and NGO discourse, as well as movies, documentaries, t.v. series, journalism and novels (see, for example, the works of Elizabeth Bernstein, Jo Doezema, (2010), Julietta Hua (2011), Nandita Sharma (2003, 2005), Gretchen Solderlund (2013), and Alexandra Moore and Elizabeth Goldberg 2015).

Much of the critique has elaborated a reinvented “civilising mission” in anti-trafficking discourse. Arguably, narrative devices such as the immorality of male traffickers and desirable vulnerability (Andrijasevic, 2007) of innocent female victims are central to the “rescue” trope that Carrie N Baker (2013) described as working across neo-abolitionist media, NGO and government. The civilising mission of “rescue” is a key element of the US Orientalist discourse of the West saving Asian and Middle Eastern society and culture from itself (see blog part two). This is a reinvention of the imperialist  “white (wo)man’s burden” in sociology Professor Kamala Kempadoo’s analysis, one which works at the convergence of the modern anti-slavery, feminist abolitionist, celebrity humanitarian movements, and neoliberal interests (See also Berstein, 2007). As an ideological myth, “Rescue” achieves a (self) image of the West as compassionate and benevolent. In the anti-modern slavery campaigns, this manifests in the figure of “the daring white knight morally obligated to save the world — especially Asia and Africa — affirming white masculinity as powerful and heroic”.

In feminist abolitionism, it manifests in a moral mission to rescue “poor ’prostituted’ women and children (victims) from male privilege, power, and lust (sex trafficking)” … thereby reproducing “a colonial maternalism in relation to the impoverished non-western world” and “reconfirming the white western middle-class woman as benevolent”. Kempadoo argues that celebrity humanitarian campaigns combine both of these approaches with — as Dina Haynes observed  — counter-productive results.

Baker (2013) observes contemporary US rescue discourse on sex trafficking of women and girls typically begins with

an evil trafficker or pimp who abducts, deceives, or lures a young, innocent, helpless, and often naive girl into a prison-like brothel and controls her with brutal violence until a heroic rescuer comes to save the day. The trafficker is often a man of colour from a foreign country, and the rescuer is often a white, Western man.

The rescue trope involves politically and culturally situated versions of what political scientist Nils Christie (1986) described as the construction of ideal victims and perpetrators. In general terms, the ideal victim is weak and blamelessly oppressed by a powerful perpetrator (or group of perpetrators). This construction works to elicit support for criminal justice measures to address the oppression.

Criminal justice academics Dr. Erin O’Brien and Michael Wilson (2016) analyses forms of idealised victim-perpetrator constructions in the US state Department’s TiP reports. Their analysis of the reports from 2001-12 shows that ideal victims are predominantly young and female, and most commonly from Asian countries (with very few from the US, and none from Western Europe, Canada and Australia). The researchers conclude that the ideal victims are represented as “weak due to their status as young women or girls, and their origin from regions of the global south” (2016:36-7). The represented weakness involves women as passive victims of abuse, rather than active agents of choice.

In terms of blamelessness, it’s notable that while the TiP reports in this period emphasize sexual exploitation, they have only one narrative of a woman who voluntarily migrated for sex work, and that women are otherwise consistently depicted as innocent young women or girls duped into sex work after migrating for non-sex work reasons. This impression is strengthened by the representing the perpetrator as someone who is unknown to the victim, rather than a known person she had a consensual arrangement with, and by representing participation in sex work as only being the outcome of brutality and subjugation  (O’Brien and Wilson, 2016:35-6, 38, 39).

The narratives that exemplify these ideal victim qualities (vulnerability, blamelessness) can be understood in terms of sociologist Nick Mai’s description of “good scripts” that might support “good cases”. Mai (2014, 2016) writes about the “humanitarian victimhood, vulnerability and gender/sex scripts” that migrant sex workers construct in order to fit with the legal requirements of the immigration and rights legal system and humanitarian support agencies in France: an escape script that includes details of abuse suffered at the hands of traffickers would support a “good case” for a trafficking victim visa, or, alternatively perhaps, an asylum claim. ” We might add that “good scripts” work to support (or legitimise) the ideological framework for anti-trafficking policy, including its gendered and “raced” aspects.

The TiP reports represent perpetrators as predominantly male, middle-aged, and involved in sex trafficking,  The ideal perpetrators are often represented as deviant: they are wealthy, Western middle-aged paedophiles consuming child-sex in developing countries. By making such a figure central to the moral panic on paedophilia typical, the TiP makes the ideal perpetrator ‘the embodiment of evil’ while also tarring the entire sex industry with this synecdochal representation.

The flip side of the evil sex-consumer is the producer.  The sex industry per se is represented as the collective noun for the “evil” individuals involved in prostitution and trafficking, often in the guise of gangs involved in transnational organized crime (TOC). Good scripts for the trafficking protagonists are those that fit the narrative and “evidential” requirements of anti-trafficking ideology. A recent example of the “typical” protagonist is the “South African brothel owner and human trafficker” who is represented as admitting that “there are situations where you have to force girls by using rape, abuse or torture. When she begins to fear for her life, she stops resisting and starts working”(TiP, 2017:32). This TiP narrative provides a “horror story” as a typical instance in order to support the urgency of the rescuers’ “moral crusade” (see Weitzer, 2007).

There are consistencies in the ways that such ideal types feed into the rescue trope across government, advocacy and media (including fictional) discourse. These include constants of race and nation, as the rescuing hero (whether a journalist, fictional character, the state or NGO actor) is most often white and male, while the villains are non-Western men (men of colour, Eastern Europeans). In TiP reports this manifests in consistent referral to non-Western states as the source of internal and international trafficking problems. In advocacy representations — including investigative journalism and NGO awareness raising campaigns — the scene of villainy is similarly Asian, Middle Eastern, Black and Eastern European, while the sex workers’ customers are (deviant kinds of) white westerners. The Orientalist representations thus work in conflation with Western moral panics about deviancy from and perversion of acceptable forms of social reproduction and sexuality.

Trafploitation fiction

The ideological anchoring work provided by good script narratives is central to a recent fictional genre we might call “trafploitation” in movies, documentaries, and t.v. series, and novels. This genre combines the theme of rescuing trafficking victims with the titillatingly and despotic aspects of contemporary Orientalism. The fictional ‘trafploitation’ genre often provides a fantasy rescue of traditional white masculinity and its social order. The Hollywood movies Taken and Trade both work in this way, with the emasculated male protagonists “learning or reasserting their manhood by rescuing females” (Baker, 2013), while being represented as having to do so because of failures or inadequacies of the formal justice system, and the extreme helplessness of the victims. These movies both climax in a restoration of traditional gendered social order with male authority — as benevolent protection  —  reasserted.

Eden poster with anti-trafficking cliches: voiceless, commodified, young & beautiful Asian victim

For the hyper-masculine rescue narratives to work the victim must be female, and is commonly sexualised, helpless, duped and sometimes Orientalised. However, recent fiction develops trafploitation with a feminist twist, wherein a “good script” version of female agency marries some of the key rescue tropes.

One such fiction is Melanie Griffith’s Eden (2012), which stumbles a drunken line between grindhouse trafploitation and feminist fiction. The film tells the story of a young Korean-American girl who — abducted and forced into prostitution by Texan human traffickers — cooperates with her captors in a desperate ploy to survive. The film begins in pitch black with an audio of fearful cries, before revealing the victim-protagonist’s perspective from inside of a car trunk, from where she views her abductor. This scene establishes the some of the film’s (softcore) grindhouse and trafploitative tropes, including a sexualised and “exotic” (Asian) victim whose innocent youth, escape and rescue narrative provides a good anti-trafficking script.

Eden screenshot abduction
Dialogue: screenshot 2: “Come on baby girl, be quiet now”.

The victim-protagonist’s blameless ideality is established by presenting her as a generally diligent schoolgirl who is respectful of her doting parents, and who has to hide her braces-smile in order to pass for 21 in the local bar. Eden’s story progresses as a coming-of-age narrative, in which “Hyun Jae” is represented as enjoying typical teenage rebellions, including the occasional cigarette behind her parents’ shop, and is willing to let a friend coax her into going to a bar to look for guys.The character’s childish innocence is reinforced throughout the scenes of her abuse by the traffickers:

Eden screenshots an ideal victim
Dialogues: Screenshot 1. “I don’t know where I am. I have to call my mum and dad.” 2. “God damn it, you go there right now or I’m getting the cigar cutter and cutting your fucking clit off.” 3. “I want to go home. I don’t want to be here anymore”.

Griffith’s draws on anti-trafficking stereotypes in portraying the traffickers as part of a transnationally organized gang (managed from Dubai), as well as on the staples of crime and grindhouse genres in having the local (“deep south” good-old-boy corrupt) police chief as a kingpin in the criminal network.  The gang members — ideal villains in anti-trafficking discourse terms — are adept multitaskers, simultaneously maintaining drugs, sex, and baby trafficking businesses. The representation of their business also fits the anti-trafficking ideal of people reduced to commodities: the operation is an industrial-style workhouse for forced prostitution in which (to add the Grindhouse touch) the victims are either killed off at adulthood — because they no longer fit the market for sex with young girls — or kept for the purpose of baby-farming.

Eden screenshots Melanie does Grindhouse
Eden screenshots: Melanie does Grindhouse

In the scene above, the protagonist maintains her good script by biting the (repulsively middle-aged) client’s penis instead of performing a blowjob. The scene then provides a chase-scene, with “Eden” fleeing her pimp. The good script combines with the grindhouse aesthetic: the protagonist refuses her commodification, yet is sexualized with the school-girl porn costume and blood-drenched cleavage as she struggles (and fails) to get away.

The good script/grindhouse combination works through the fictional conceit of “Hyun Jae’s” pretense of collaboration with “Vaughan” (the pimp), who is represented as coming to rely on her for her intelligence and wits, while the relationship between the two is played as a kind of romance doomed by “Hyun Jae’s” underlying virtue and “Vaughan’s” unredeemable awfulness. The pretence narrative culminates in “Hyun Jae’s” return to family, following the escapades of her (virtuous) murder of “Vaughan” and “Mario” (the baby-trafficker), and her rescue of a fellow victim “Priscilla” (who loses her baby to the business).

Eden screenshots Escape and rescue
Dialogues: Screenshot 2. “I’ll explain to you later, but we gotta go right now, OK?”  3. “Mom”.

Eden works as a fantasy in which female agency triumphs over the misogyny of its imagined trafficking industry. It differs from the good scripts of the TiP reports in presenting its victim-protagonist as owning agency, but remains within the ideological orbit of the anti-trafficking movement in portraying a good script victim who resists her forced prostitution as much as possible, and only complies because of force and coercion. This good script is reinforced in antitheses through the character “Svetlana”, whose ‘working her way up’ to a madam-like position is represented in terms of moral failure (she is represented as craven and cowardly).

The film’s narrative fits the TiP ideal form in portraying a transnational crime, whose perpetrators (the unseen bosses) are Middle Eastern and Eastern European; yet it differs in focusing on the local (American) arm of the business (instead of the TiP reports’ focus on American clients). If Eden can be said to be Orientalist to a degree, it is via the vehicle of the exotic sexualized protagonist yet — true to its grindhouse tropes — the protagonist is powerful rather than submissive. “Hyun Jae” is the agent rather than the subject of the film’s rescue narrative. Jenny Platz (2012) argues that the 1970s films of the Grindhouse genre and its later reinvention (in for example, Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997) Kill Bill I and II (2003, 2004), and Death Proof (2007), gives their female protagonist the agency that has predominantly belonged to the male hero, yet rely on frequent representations of female bodies subjected to the male camera and gaze. Arguably, this is also true of Eden, even if the effect of a female director —and thus the view through a “female camera” — is only to mitigate (its softcore aesthetic never becomes hardcore). Ultimately, the film’s feminist critique of sexual objectification is incoherent. “We” the viewers are invited to condemn the sexualizing misogyny of the drama’s villains while enjoying the sexualized agency of the protagonist whose titillating representation depends on the sex-trafficking scenario.

Trade of Innocents: Justice Needs a Hero

While Griffith’s  narrative traffics in sexploitation, Christopher Bessette’s Trade of Innocents  (2012) markets a kind of neo-missionary Orientalism. In this film poster, the white American middle-class rescuers (“Claire” and Alex Becker”) are foregrounded against a dangerously bloodshot sunset over Cambodia’s (exotic-for-Westerners) Ankar Wat. The poster faithfully reflects the film’s logic in which white western humanitarians must play the role of the hero in order for (criminal and Christian-moral) justice to be done.

Trade of Innocent’s American Christian protagonist’s  are represented as the film’s emotional focal point because of their grief for the loss of their own daughter, who had been kidnapped from their middle-class American home and murdered (prior to their relocation to Asia). The film privileges the working-through of the protagonist’s grief: Cambodia and the trafficking-story work as their therapeutic scene of emotional closure.

The story involves the Western hero’s rescue of very young (and therefore ideally innocent) girls from sex traffickers and their (deviant Western) pedophile customers in Cambodia, and the evil trafficker “Dude’s'” quest to satisfy his American customer’s grotesque desire for younger and virginal girls. This narrative structure places the film’s issues in the realms of Western moral panic and taboo, representing the extreme of pedophilia abuse as if it stands in for the broader realm of sex work in Asian countries.

Trade of Innocents victims and abuser
Trade of Innocents: victims and abusers

Several scenes place particular emphasis on the moral and cultural superiority of Western perspectives over “Asian/Cambodian” morality and culture. The first of these involves a dialogue where “Alex”, who is working for the UN/US as a Human Trafficking Inspector, seeks the cooperation of “Pakkaday”, the new Siem Reap Police Chief:

“Pakkaday”: There is something in your Western Culture you do not understand. I have rescued many children who themselves want to return to the brothels. In the Asian culture, it is the duty of the child to worry about the parents. Usually these families are so poor that they cannot live. A child is sacrificed for the rest.

“Alex”Poverty is no excuse to surrender a child to prostitution. In any culture.

“Pakkaday”And you think that if you catch this one criminal, you can change that problem? The tiger is dependent on the forest just as the forest depends on the tiger.

In this scene, the Cambodian officer is represented as an apologist for Asian/Cambodian culture’s collaboration with child sex trafficking and made to present what is represented as the “excuse” of poverty as the justification for families’ choices to send their children into prostitution.

The scene seeks to dismiss three of the dominant critiques of neo-abolitionism: First, that women (in this case girls) who return to prostitution after having been rescued have made a valid (rational) choice. Second, that poverty is reasonable grounds for participation in prostitution (but in this case, in regards to the extreme example of child prostitution). Third, that anti-trafficking effort would be better pursued by focusing on the larger underlying problems (the forest of poverty, not the trees of individual criminals). Each of these propositions is represented as intrinsic to the moral equivocations that belong to Asian/Cambodian (and by implication) Buddhist culture, against the moral certainty of the Western (Christian) investigator. Asian culture is represented as needing to learn from Western culture and its universal moral values. This theme of moral education is continued in a further scene where “Alex” teaches the “Cambodian police cadets” that their culture of secrets and silence (as embodied in the symbol of Ankor Wat) must be overcome in order to protect the innocent child victims.

Several scenes involving “Claire” and Cambodian women (and girl) characters further reinforce this missionary Orientalism. In the first of these “Claire” is shown visiting the girls who live at the “Serey Jorani” (Jewel of Freedom) rescue home for child victims of sex trafficking. The girls —whom we are told mostly come from very poor villages —are working on repairs for a local widow’s house.  The (un-named) rescue home manager tells “Claire” that “with this work, the girls learn to give back to their people positively”. The didactic message is that the girls’ involvement in prostitution to support their families is a result of ignorance that can be overcome via humanitarian education.

The second scene portrays the rescue home manager and “Claire’s” confrontation of the mother of a trafficking victim who is missing from the Serey Jorani home:

Trade of Innocents: the “bad mother” 1 Dialogues screenshot 1: “She cares for her family”. 2 “Kim-Ly is returned to the brothels?”.






In the scene above, the mother informs the manager and Claire that her daughter has returned from the rescue home to work in a brothel in order to support her family. In preceding scenes, the mother is shown looking accusingly at her daughter while she was working at the widow’s house with the other “rescued” girls, and in this scene, she arises from resting in a hammock (signifying that she is idle and possibly lazy).

Trade of Innocents : the “bad mother” 2     Dialogue: Screenshot 2: “As a mother, you should be ashamed!”

The white protagonist “Claire” then slaps the Asian “bad mother” and tells her she should be ashamed of herself (as one mother to another). This scene encapsulates the film’s message of the moral superiority of the universal humanitarian perspective and reduces the issue of poverty-led sex work to one of individual (and maternal) moral failing. The Cambodian rescue shelter manager and “Claire” confront the “bad mother” together, but it is the American mother who is represented as punishing the “offender”, thus embodying the “moral pornography”  (Joel Marks: 2011) of cathartic violence for the (American) audience’s collective disgust.

As noted above, the film privileges the white Christian protagonists’ working-through of their grief: The grief narrative climaxes in “Claire” and “Alex’s” rescue of a very young girl from “Duke” (the Cambodian Trafficker), and his murder by “Police Chief Pakkaday” (presumably in order to prevent “Duke” from informing on his collusion with the trafficking business).

Like the hyper-masculine hero of the film Taken, the male protagonist “Alex” works towards a form of restored masculinity via his rescue mission. “Claire” is represented as being given her resolution earlier in the narrative, when her empathy with a trafficking victim allowed that girl to gain some emotional closure over the trauma of her abuse and thereby enabled “Claire” to relive her own grief and accept her loss (for her daughter’s suffering and death). These mirroring therapeutic trajectories culminate in a scene that represents the romance of Western humanitarianism and its triumph over Eastern and deviant culture (note the setting of Christian graveyard in Buddhist Cambodia):

Trade of Innocents screenshot: “Claire” and “Alex’s” romantic climax with the child traffic victims

Trade of Innocent’s gendered representations differ from films like Taken as the character “Claire” is a key protagonist rather than just a narrative device to support a male protagonist’s heroic journey, and the Cambodian female characters are also represented as exercising (limited) agency. If the film can be said to provide a kind of feminism, it is that of the anti-prostitution and Christian Orientalist kind in which the positively portrayed Cambodian female characters are either “good script” heroes or victims.

Other recent Western feminist representations that have also attempted to broaden the rescue trope via a white middle-class female protagonist include the tv series Human Trafficking (2005), and the Hollywood movie The Whistleblower (2010). In the tv series,  Mira Sorvino plays a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent who attempts to save a female trafficking victim (in the US). In “The Whistleblower”, Rachel Weiz plays an American peacekeeper who exposes a United Nations cover-up of sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia.

Baker (2013) argues that the degree to which these fictions challenge the traditional gender framing of the rescue trope is limited, as their protagonists’ attempts are failures. The feminist writer-director Jane Campion’s television drama series Top of the Lake: China Girl bears a stronger correspondence to Christopher Bessette’s film than Human Trafficking and The Whistleblower, inasmuch as its white, female and middle-class protagonist (“Robin Griffin”, a New Zealand detective in Australia, played by Elizabeth Moss) successfully saves her daughter “Mary” from a villain (“Alexander Braun/Puss”) apparently involved in sex and surrogate baby trafficking. China Girl is, however, more clearly feminist than Trade of Innocents, not least because its protagonist (the female detective) and most of the focalizing characters are female, while the supporting characters are male.


Campion’s tale is, in part, one of misogyny and migrant sex workers in harbourside Sydney, where the Australian male customers are generally creepy and pathetic, and the Asian migrant sex workers required to work off excessive debts ($30,000 for the drama’s victim), presumably to their traffickers, before being freed. Despite presenting a narrative in which its migrant sex workers might be read as exercising some degree of agency,  and in which female characters are generally not sexualized for the audience’s gaze, Top of the Lake: China Girl is not free of “trafploitative” representations.

This poster plays on the ideas of vulnerability and objectification presenting the protagonist’s damaged body nakedly, from the back-view. The image connotes the fragility of a damaged ceramic (“china”)  mannequin, not a woman but a commodity-image of an ideal female body. The damage appropriates the suffering of the drama’s victim (the murdered migrant sex-worker called “Cinnamom/Padma/China Girl”) onto the body/mannequin of the white middle-class protagonist whose holstered gun suggests, at least, some latent agency. Consistent with the poster’s appropriation, the credits omit reference to any of the drama’s Asian actors (who predominantly play the role of sex workers/surrogates). This is reflected throughout the six-part series where most screen time is  devoted to the white female focalizing characters (“Robin”, “Mary” (the daughter), “Julia” (Mary’s adoptive mother), and “Miranda” (the buddy cop).

China Girl procedural scene screenshot
China Girl screenshots: procedural Dialogues Screenshot 1 “She’s had unprotected sex and got herself pregnant” 2. “My guess, Asian student working in the sex industry. It’s a loophole”.

The body of a murdered Asian prostitute anchors Campion’s narrative. The exposition scene above shows the way in which the agency of the protagonist is foregrounded against images of the victim’s suffering.In this scene, the camera centres on the protagonist as she explains the sex-crime scenario, while an image of victim’s naked corpse works to anchor the explanation that blames the victim for her vulnerability (as she has had unprotected sex, and she has got herself pregnant).

China Girl’s story arc revolves around “Robin” whose key motivating trauma is the loss of her child, which she felt compelled to give away for adoption following her rape by a group of Australian men when a teenager (15 years old) in Sydney. In the preceding initial drama series (simply titled Top of the Lake) the protagonist lives in rural New Zealand where she investigates a child prostitution ring that turns out to involve the local police as key actors. She triumphs and as a result, the victims are rescued. New Zealand is the scene of the protagonists’ other misogyny-related trauma: her father turns out to be a sociopath, her boss a rapist and pedophile, her fiance a cheat, while in the later series some of her Australian male colleagues are sexist rednecks. The underlying generative theme of both series is the extreme, pervasive and ongoing misogyny of white New Zealand and Australian cultures.

The second series, China Girl, can be viewed as being, in part, a reflexive attempt to consider the race and class investments of the female agency belonging to its white characters —the white mothers, would-be-mothers, and daughters, in relation to the Asian migrant sex/surrogacy workers — within the wider misogynistic culture and inequitably globalised chains of social reproduction.

China Girl’s sex and baby trafficking narrative works as a device to enable the protagonist’s quest for reconciliation with her daughter. While the white middle-class resolution is achieved partially through “Robin’s” rescue of the daughter and burgeoning romance with the adopting father “Pyke”, she is represented as failing in her efforts to rescue the Asian sex and surrogate workers sex workers.  The series represents its iconic victims (the girl and her unborn child) as having suffered a fatally failed escape, with the suitcase her body is encased in drifting out to sea only to return ‘home’ to Bondi beach. If “Robin/Mary” and “China Girl/foetus” undertake inversely mirroring West/East journeys, then “Alexander/Asian surrogate mothers” might be viewed as making an anti-trafficking kind of escape, following their landlord “Alexander/Puss” back to a location in Asia, and in the process refusing their surrogate contracts, while they and/or “Alexander” pocket the money paid by the Australian would-be parents.

bad journey
“China Girl’s” journey to a watery Australian grave

Chinese reflections on “bride” trafficking

The engine that pushes Chinese migration from rural to urban and international spheres such as work in Australian cities is the inequality of urbanization that developed under the Maoist regime, and was then exacerbated by the reform era transformations. This was a focus of so-called “6th generation” Chinese film-makers, predominantly in terms of stories of the impoverishment and discrimination faced by the “floating population” in the rapidly swelling urban-industrial-service economy cities. Within this focus, many directors incorporate tales of sex work migration in genres that cross-over from neo-realist social commentary to crime procedurals and noir.

Li Yang’s 2007 film Mang Shan (“Blind Mountain”) narrates several kinds of refusal in relation to sex (in this case, “bride”) trafficking. Mang Shan’s story of internal trafficking is set in rural northwest China in the early 1990s. The film’s protagonist “Bai Xuemei” is a recent graduate searching for work in order to pay her parents back for their investment in her education. A couple recruits her to assist with their “rare herb gathering” business. However, she soon discovers that her new employers have tricked her: There is no job and she has in fact been sold to a rural family (the “Huang’s”) in order to provide a wife for their son “Huang Degui”.

mang shan screenshot welcome
Dialogues: screenshot 1: “Your family sold you to be my son’s wife”. 2. “the fact is I bought you for 7,000”.

The early scenes establish the rural context in which women of marriageable and child-rearing age and extremely rare, and indicate the high value placed on such women by the community and family (the 7,000 rmb paid for the “bride” in the early 1990s representing a large sum for a farming family).

mang shan wedding night a
Wedding night curiosity

The film quickly establishes key trafficking tropes; the young woman is commodified without her consent; once the trafficker and customers have made their deal, she is not free to leave; she is expected to fulfill the role of wife, including sex with the husband she is forced to marry, bear and raise a child for. Li Yang also establishes elements that are particular to the rural context, including the expectation that “Xuemei” will submit to traditional family authority (personified by the mother in law).

mang shan wedding night b
Wedding night toasts. Dialogue screenshot 1: “Drink or remain a bachelor”. 2. “Drink up or else no women in your next life either”.

Unlike the American anti-trafficking fictions, Blind Moutain is not a narrative of an individual evil predator. Instead, the community starved of young women is involved in “Xuemei’s” oppression. The “Huang’s” (her parents-in-law) physically restrain her in order to help their son “Degui” rape and hopefully impregnate her. Villagers work together to prevent her attempted escape and reject the price offered by her father for her release. The local governor stands by and allows the villagers to prevent her escape. The two local men she has consensual sex with both fail to support her (and one of them flees, fearing retribution from the villagers). “Xuemei’s” kidnapping is presented as typical for rural China: when she becomes pregnant she makes friends with other young mothers who turn out to have also been bought and have generally come to accept their situation. These formerly urban women are valued for their biological and cultural contribution to the villagers’ social reproduction: “Xuemei”, for example, is expected to contribute to the village community through teaching. Educational cultural capital is highly valued because it is one side of the urban/rural inequality divide.

The film’s climax presents an ambivalent picture of “rescue”.  In the international version of the film, the Huang family and the villagers are able to prevent the policemen from forcibly effecting her escape. “Mrs. Huang” prevents “Xuemei” from taking her child,

whose baby is it
Dialogues: Screenshot 1: “This is my baby”. 2. “The cops are taking the baby”. 3 “Leave the baby”.

while the police advise her to let Mrs. Huang have the child (“for the time being”) so that they may leave safely. However, they are unable to do so as “Xuemei’s” husband  “Degui” and the villagers accost the police and argue their case:

Dialogues: Screenshot 1. “It is illegal to steal away her rights. 2. “Many people buy wives. Have they all broken the law? 3. If she pays me back, then she can go.

Mang Shan’s title plays on the popular use of the term “mangliu (literally “blind flow” or drifting), one of several used pejoratively to refer to rural migrants as “blind”, and workers as “outsiders”in the 1990s. “Mang” — indicates those who cannot or will not see ugly or uncomfortable truths. As Amanda Weiss observes, Li Yang’s film reflects these popular ideas ironically, confronting the (Chinese) viewer with the proposition that it is the audience (or, perhaps, middle-class society in general) that is “blind” to understanding rural migration and its causes and effects.

The climax of the international version of Mang Shan might be regarded as the confrontation between urban privileged ignorance (“mang”) and the demands of the rural migrating class being played out in miniature, as the villagers refuse the proposition that the legal rights of the individual woman (the trafficked victim) outweigh their need for social reproduction and their common customs.

who is mangliu
Dialogues: Screenshot 1. “Get out of the way. We have to leave today”. 2. “Someone help!”

In the international version’s final shots, “Xuemei” stops “Degui” beating her father by hacking him with a cleaver. Her subsequent shocked expression may include a sense of freedom, even as she has become as “barbaric” as she says the farmers are, and the audience may know that her actions likely lead to prison and death rather than a return to urban family life.

The domestic-audience version painted a less confrontational scene. As Amanda Weiss observes,  in this version “Xuemei’s” mother-in-law still refuses to hand over “Xuemei’s” son. However, instead of “Xuemei” and “Degui’s” violent confrontation, several of the other mothers join the escape, but one of them changes her mind and refuses to go because she doesn’t want to lose her child. “Xuemei” gazes back at “Mrs. Huang” chasing the truck with the child clutched in her arms. Her expression is ambivalent. In both versions, the endings are a long way from the romantic climax that tends to end the Western rescue trope and trafploitation genre films.

Factional Fictions: situating trafploitation and the rescue narratives in relation to ethnographic research and counter-narratives

The governmental and fictional narratives discussed above can be considered in relation to the anti-trafficking ideology embodied in the TiF reports, and the relevant ethnographic research. The narratives of the TiF reports are clearly intended to work as synecdoche, particular instance examples that readers should take as typical of the situation as a whole. They are rarely well substantiated with verifiable research and even when credited to the ideal victim whose stories they narrate, are likely to be “good scripts” involving a conflict of interest between the alleged victims’ need to tell the kind of story that fits with her legal claim (for protection, for immigration status) and the narrative’s credibility. This may be particularly true of instances where the narrative goes against the grain of the prevailing ethnographic research. It is likely that the TiF reports, like other state-invested human rights research, is deliberately opaque precisely because the research methods used for their production are not credible. What matters, from a (US) state point of view, is not so much social-scientific credibility, but that the narrative and any “evidence” presented should fit the neo-imperialist and retro-gendered ideology of the neo-abolitionist movement in a way that resonates with its intended audience. In other words, “moral credibility” trumps factual credibility in practice, yet the TiP producers would have its readership understand it as being morally factual (not counter-factual).

Moral-factuality pervades the entertaining fictions that seek to interpellate viewers as part of the rescuing crusade.The fact that Eden was based on a “true story” that turned out to have been fictional does not matter in a sense, as it nonetheless provides a “good script” for anti-trafficking ideology not least because it manages the trick of relying on and critiquing the sexploitation of the female body. Trade of Innocents’ also claims to be based on facts but has a religious focus absent from Griffith’s film. It stars Mira Sorvino — a devout Christian and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking —and was designed for anti-trafficking awareness-raising. Speaking at a UNODC screening, Sorvino said “Most people are unaware that this terrible trade of children for sexual exploitation flourishes both in the United States and around the globe. Trade of Innocents will open their eyes and their hearts, and inspire them to become part of the solution.”

The film faithfully adheres to the American neo-abolitionist ideology, making it clear that “justice” requires a Western Christian hero (or to put it the other way round, it legitimises Western Christianity as heroic in contrast to Asian (and Buddhist) moral weakness. Like the TiF report narratives discussed by O’Brien and Wilson, it works as synecdoche, taking the extreme instance of commercial child prostitution in Cambodia as indicative of the general problem of “sex trafficking”. The film’s “evil” protagonists (the trafficker, clients, corrupt police) are morally taboo and their actions and justifications, therefore, figure as non-credible: In the film’s logic poverty is no excuse for child sex, familial pressure on daughters to engage in or return to sex work is a betrayal of maternal love; children are too young to exercise agency and therefore cannot consent to sex work. Each of these points works to emphasize the film’s moral (Christian) logic.

Trade of Innocents has been promoted as being factual. Its producers claim that the story is motivated by their own experience of encountering child-sex abuse in Cambodia, and Jeff Blom, (a human trafficking investigator), described it as “the most realistic representation of the work done on the front lines against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, particularly in Southeast Asia.” Sorvino’s involvement gives it added representational credibility as she is a key (celebrity) player in the UN/US anti-trafficking institutions’ representational “war on trafficking”.

Cambodia makes an apt choice of fictional site for neo-abolitionist symbolic politics because of the already-established moral panic over child sex abuse. The overdetermination of representations of trafficking in Cambodia by the American moral crusade provides a good example of the way in which the desire for ideologically good scripts outweighs the credibility of the evidence it relies on. Keo et al., (2014) explain the manner in which moral panic has worked in Cambodia, following Talbot’s (1999) elaboration of the concept of moral panic (Chen, 1973). Talbot’s elaboration includes

1) uncorrected statistical over-inflation;

2) refusal of credible counter-evidence;

3) non-credible research;

4) problematising via indiscriminate merging of varied crimes.

Keo et al., elaborate this schema further in terms of the trafficking moral panic. They note that Talbot’s schema works, in this context via the vehicle of highly emotive language and discourse. It is mobilised by interested parties including, in particular, moral entrepreneurs (journalists, politicians, rescuers, etc.,). The panic —working across local, national, global levels — produces negative consequences including “bad legislation, misuse of resources, demonization of certain groups, and criminalization of innocent people” (Keo et al., 2014: 220-1).

Sorvino’s idea that child trafficking is “flourishing” (presumably in Cambodia) is undermined by research showing that the scale of sex-trafficking (and child sex trafficking in particular) in Cambodia has been subject to highly exaggerated claims. Much use has been made of an erronous estimate of 80-100,000 prostitutes working in Cambodia made by the NGO Human Rights Viligance of Cambodia (HRVC, 2000). Subsequent estimates including UNICEF’s 2003 estimate of 55,000 sex workers in Cambodia have also been shown to be exaggerated. Steinfatt showed that the numbers were likely to be far lower, with 18,256 direct sex workers in 2003, of whom 2,000 may have been trafficked, and the Home and Community Care Program estimate of 17,000 sex workers in 2008 corroborated this finding (Steinfatt, 2011; Keo et al., 2014: 207).

Within the trafficking moral panic,  the agency of “victims” and the character of “traffickers” has been subject to sustained misrepresentation. Bessette’s filmic misrepresentations work through a horror story and reductively moralizing narration. In the moral universe of Trade of Innocents, consenting to sex work is not possible because the film narrows its focus to the abuse of very young children only. Ethnographic research with sex workers suggests a different worldview. For example,  Keo interviewed nine (older) boys and eight girls who had been “trafficked” from Cambodia to Thailand and subsequently returned to Cambodia (Keo 2006). He writes,

None saw themselves as “victims.” They had willingly followed their recruiters to Thailand to earn an income and support their impoverished family. They considered themselves “good children” because of their ability to work and share the burden of supporting their family. Most had been “trafficked” by family members, relatives, or neighbors, and a few by strangers. Few had suffered physical abuse and most of them had been treated well (Keo, 2014).

The villains in Trade Of Innocents include the (effectively) trafficking “bad mother” who is represented as choosing to exploit her own child for money, instead of working herself. Here, as in other instances, the film maintains its moral factuality by misrepresentation. Family members including mothers and other known persons are often involved in managing sex work, including recruitment, and as the testimony of Keo’s trafficking victims attests, in the context of Cambodian poverty sex work represents a sometimes invaluable contribution to families’ livelihoods.

Criminalising ‘trafficking’ in Cambodia —by way of US anti-trafficking pressure — has resulted in the criminalization of the poorest of the poor, and women, in particular, involved in sex work. Rather than the male cartoon-villain “Dude” being shot by the police chief, a factual representation might have portrayed an impoverished mother or female madam being convicted and given a long-term sentence. Moreover, as Keo et al. (2014) suggest, this kind of outcome would be likely because a) s/he was unable to pay the bribe to the police and/or court and b) the judge needed to support the Cambodian justice systems desire to maintain favour with the US by producing convictions, even where there were not sufficient actual crimes to do so. In this catch-22, such a judge might reason that his only route to successfully meeting his target is to target the powerless.

Trade of Innocent’s dismissal of the socio-economic context for sex work in Cambodia is culturally racist, and the anti-trafficking “rescue” imperative that it celebrates has been harmfully counter-productive. In the context of poverty, unemployment, underemployment and badly paid employment, sex work is one of the few routes available to rural young women that enable sufficient income and the possibility of social mobility and self-development. This is the socio-economic “forest” in which individuals make their grounded-rational decisions.

American style moralizing (prohibitionist) criminal justice approaches are counter-productive and often result in injustice because of geopolitical pressure and the partial dependency of the justice system on the informal economy.  Trade of Innocents represents that dependency in Orientalist terms, sheeting its moralizing blame to the roots of the whispering tree it suggests as an icon for Buddhist moral equivocation and its silencing and condoning of the imagined child-sex problem. Postcolonial and post-Marxist critics would sheet the blame instead to the ongoing legacies of colonialism and the enforced inability of Cambodia to escape its peripheral weakness. Trade of Innocents is able to perform its feat of racist transformation by reduction: the extreme horror of child sex trafficking stands in for the inferiority of non-Western non-Christian culture against the superiority of Western Christianity. This represents a severe form of the cultural silencing that works through the film: the one critical voice that might have spoken its narrative is that of the underage sex worker “Kim Ly”, who escapes the rescue house in order to return to work in the brothel. But this character’s perspective is subsumed within the white protagonist’s heroic punishment of the (morally) bad mother.

Campion’s China Girl also lays claim to factuality. The tv series was grounded by (a short period of)  research with sex workers and sex worker advocates in Sydney, and Campion stated that she incorporated their views into her work. The director told The Guardian

I really liked the idea of setting it in Sydney and making it very much about women and their bodies and the sex industry, in particular the experiences of migrants within the industry,” says Campion. “Just what the reality of the job might be like – not the way it’s usually presented with sex in bikinis or whatever but just the ordinariness of it, how you do it and earn money from it and keep earning money from it.

Some scenes work as Campion suggest, representing a kind of normality (rather than invested-gaze fantasy) of day-to-day sex work, and the world of the brothel (where, for example, the madam and her spouse are ordinary and down-to-earth, and the madam wears the trousers, not her inarticulate Australian husband). In the scene in which the sex workers tell “Mary” about the business, one sex worker states that she found the clients gross, but had a day when she earned $500 and so decided to continue with the work. This representation of a grounded rational decision for sex work corresponds to the views of Chinese (Chin and Finckenauer, 2012) and Chinese, Thai and South Korean migrant sex workers (Renshaw et al., 2015) given in recent ethnographic accounts.

Campion claims to have consulted sex workers in construction her fiction, recounting that

I met with the Scarlet Alliance [Australia’s national sex workers association] and they said, ‘Why the hell do you have to have a story about dead prostitutes – it’s such a cliche and pathetic’, and I was like, ‘Oh OK, well it is a crime story’, and they said, ‘Yeah, I know but’ and explained why they hated it. So, in the end, we included their viewpoint in the story to get that voice across.

It’s difficult to see how Campion included their objections, and also how the “inclusion” of their point of view, such as it is, works in a way that does not privilege the Western feminist point of view, and delegitimize that of the sex workers. China Girl’s inclusions are tokenistic and actually amount to representational silencing. “Knowledge is power”, as post-structuralists are fond of saying, and delegitimized knowledge is powerless. In this scene (below), the white protagonist’s penetrating gaze forces the sex workers advocate to “recognise” the violence of sex trafficking, using a horrifying image of the victim’s corpse. The protagonist’s (painfully informed) gaze trumps the (Asian) advocate’s “delusional” description of sex work in Sydney as being regulated and safer than walking the streets (it “obviously” isn’t safe to cross the street if you might end up at the bottom of the ocean in a suitcase).

Framing the sex workers perspective. Dialogues: Screenshot 1. “So, what makes you think she’s a sex worker?” 2. “It’s safer to work in a brothel than to walk home at night”. Screenshot three has the detective showing the sex workers’ collective the victim’s corpse.

Despite the attempted recognition of the sex workers’ point of view, their voice (to the extent that it could be claimed to be present) is generally ‘heard’ but not listened to (to employ Leah Bassel’s 2017 distinction), as in this scene with the sex worker advocate, and in the use of the dead prostitute trope (despite the Scarlett Alliance’s objections).

The delegitimization is reinforced by the series’s constant reiteration of the dangerous inadequacies of Australian masculinity and of its sex work clients represented by the “sex wizard, Brett” and his motley crew of friends” and the character “Alex/Puss”. The young men involved in the online sex worker rating club/meeting are caricatures of male inadequacy,  whose homosocial bonding depends on their objectification of women. When one sex worker performs the “girlfriend experience’ for the most empathetic of them (the one who turns out to be violently delusional), she comes across like a bad drag act performing Asian sexual submissiveness. Asian sex work is represented as supporting a normality of Australian misogynist fantasy and masculine inadequacy.

These themes of socially harmful objectification are reiterated in the complex representation of the character “Puss/Alexander”. This character is given the job of (mis)representing left-wing “post-feminist” views on migrant sex work. As discussed above, he organizes the surrogate sex workers’ rebellion and exodus, depriving the desperate Australian would be parent’s of their paid-for babies, claiming to restore the migrant women’s’ agency over their own bodies and fates, and redressing the economic inequality between the wealthy Australians and Asian women.

However, the sincerity of this emancipating mission is undercut by the way that this character is represented as exploitative and misogynist. The Asian sex workers’ affection for and trust in the man they named “Professor Puss” (he is the brothel’s landlord, and teaches them some English) is framed from the point of view of the focalising protagonist .”Robin” perceives their affection as delusional, given her “more realistic” perception of this man as a criminal suspect (he may have murdered “China Girl”), a paedophile (who abuses her teenage daughter “Mary”), and a mentally deranged and violent misogynist. He is also represented as using “Mary” as an object to shield himself from being shot, and as a bigamist who humiliates his wife by entertaining his underage “girlfriend” at the Cafe Stasi (their business). Finally “Alexander Puss” is represented as a fraud, a failed academic whose rebellions against bourgeois morality — including the “prostituting’ of “Mary” — may represent envy, resentment, and self-loathing (furthering the drama’s expressions of masculine inadequacy).

Like the corrupt police chief character in Bessette’s Trade of Innocents, Campion’s “Alexander/Puss” is a narrative device which works to delegitimize the poverty argument for involvement in migrant sex work or — in this case —migrant surrogacy work.  Moreover, there is little apparent agency for the migrant women in Campion’s representation of their “escape”; the agency is exploitative and belongs to “Alexander/Puss”. If Campion had wanted to represent an act of migrant agency, she might have made the sex workers themselves the agents of their escape. In the same vein, the sex worker’s view that their earnings provide sufficient grounds for sex work, and the sex worker advocate’s view that the work is safe in Sydney (where it has been legalised and regulated) is undercut by the representations of the unremitting awfulness, violence and pathetic nature of the clients and the villain, and the terrible fate of the title character “China Girl”.

China Girl, while grounding its examination of western women’s complex motherhood and mother-daughter dynamics, and focalizing on the white protagonist’s “wounded attachments” (as Wendy Brown puts it), uses the representations of sexualized Asian bodies, and the dead prostitute trope in particular, without giving that character anything more than minimal screen time (predominantly as a device to illustrate “Brett’s” girlfriend fantasy). The procedural climax – “Alexander/Puss’s” revelation that the “Asian” migrant “Padma” (“China Girl”) had committed suicide comes as a minor aside to the white family romance of “Robin-Mary-Pyke”. This exploitative use of the Asian-exotic scene for Campion’s Western post-misogynist romance undercuts the director’s claimed interest in the perspective of migrant sex workers.

One sex worker commented that

Campion’s women are “not passive victims” — unless, of course, they’re sex workers … Campion’s dead (and, hence, passive) woman is, specifically, a migrant sex worker, a population that is consistently denied a voice Western pop culture/Australian political discourse, despite there being a great deal to say. 

She went on to observe that the Scarlet Alliance “has done groundbreaking research by and for migrant sex workers, which, if Campion had bothered to look at it, trouble assumptions of migrant sex workers as necessarily “trafficked”, exploited, and voiceless”. Key to the misrepresentation of migrant sex workers as “trafficked, exploited and voiceless” prostitutes is the idea that such women must be acting under the duress of force or coercion, rather than on the basis of the informed consent that the commentator describes as “foundational to our work”.

China Girl’s white feminist politics works by providing a narrative world that corresponds to some of the factual phenomenon reported in recent ethnographic research. The Thai, Chinese and South Korean women who make up the majority of migrant sex workers in cities like Sydney and Melbourne reported generally good and fair working conditions, and high levels of satisfaction with their earnings.

As noted above, Campion’s series does reflect the research showing very few claimed to enjoy sex work, but most reported that the good income made it worthwhile. China Girl also reasonably represents the prevalence of sex work among migrants on student visas. This corresponds to the research indicating the vast majority entered Australia legally and work in the sex industry voluntarily. However, the drama undercuts its points of accuracy in order to make unfounded representations. As opposed to the $30,000 debt owed by a sex worker in China Girl, none of the migrant sex workers interviewed by Renshaw et al., (2015) reported extortion through debt, and very few claims of having been trafficked. Similarly, many of the Chinese migrant sex worker interviewed by Chin and Finckenauer (2012) self-funded their legal international migration or paid comparatively small amounts to facilitators for irregular migration.

Research with migrant sex workers in Australian cities  (Renshaw et al., 2015) demonstrates the inaccuracy of portrayals of migrant sex workers as passive exploited victims. Unlike the risk suggested in anchoring device of the drowned prostitute’s corpse in Campion’s tale, migrant sex workers in cities like Sydney and Melbourne report high levels of personal safety and safe sexual health, and none of the migrant sex workers they interviewed identified themselves as victims.

In the end, China Girl’s exotic Asian-in-Sydney scenario works like Bessente’s “Cambodia” as an anchoring device for white western rescue trajectories; if Campion’s drama climaxes with the protagonist’s white family romance based on appropriate (consensual, non-exploitative) sexuality, her failure to “rescue” the Asian sex workers from the exploitative (and now trafficking) “Alex/Puss” is sheeted home to the triumph of damaged masculinity and its misogyny disguised as anti-imperialist equality politics. Both migrant sex work and the refusal of surrogacy are represented as working in the realms of exploitation, not in the grounded rationality and female agency that recent ethnography recognises as central to migrant sex workers’ decision-making (As well as Chin and Finckenauer, 2012, and Renshaw et al, 2015., see for example Agustin, 2006; Ahmad, 2005; Kempadoo, 2004; Mai, 2016).

Conclusion: the moral pornography of trafploitative anti-trafficking representations

The American and Australian anti-trafficking dramas examined here share much of the Orientalist and undemocratic character of the TiP reports. They share in common a silencing of the non-scripted views of migrant sex workers. This silencing works in part by misrepresentation, providing good script characters and narratives in which ideal victims desire rescue from exploitation. Those fantasies work to legitimate the moral narcissism of neo-abolitionists (including Western feminists and Christians).

These narratives engage with issues of gender, class, nationality and “race” but are not intersectional: they progress by suppressing one category (class/political economy) in order to privilege another (gender/morality). The silencing involved allows for only good script voices: for example, the migrant sex workers taking their foetuses home to Asia at the end of China Girl beckon to Mary to join them. But she alone has seen through the illusion of “Alex/Puss’s” benevolence: he is (“actually’) just exploitative (she knows this from her greater intimacy with him). In contrast, the group of Asian migrant sex workers (they don’t really achieve the kind of individuality that focalising characters own) are delusional (“mangliu”, blindly following their exploitative pimp). This kind of silencing is central to the neo-abolitionist logic in which there cannot be consensual sex work because all sex work is actually exploitative prostitution. That kind of essentialising view replicates the alleged silencing of Althusserian models of non-scientific ideology: sex workers are subjects of gendered interpellation and misrecognise themselves and their (exploitative) situation. They need rescue from their ideological ignorance.

That ignorance is represented as belonging to the culture of trafficking “victims” and “perpetrators”. Hua (2011) locates American anti-trafficking representations as working with a cultural racism that continues (or reinvents) European modernity’s hierarchies of civilisational development wherein the non-Western society is always in a state of “non-yetness” (Chakrabarty, 2000), requiring education to facilitate its eventual journey towards Western modernity. This reinvents the liberal concept of capacity as the boundary of freedom, relegating those who do not (allegedly “cannot”) adopt a good script perspective as irrational, backwards, barbaric, incapable.

As noted, this logic is built on occlusions of the point of view of those represented as being involved, including the sex worker’s, migrant sex workers’, facilitators, community members (in the migrants’ place of origin). That silencing confines the dominant perspective (in the West) within an onanistic loop of non-communication that might be understood as a failure of desire for transcultural understanding in the registers of class as well as ethnicity, “race” or nationality. The West — in this neo-abolitionist form — cannot meet and engage with the other, will not open itself to the critical self-transformations involved in reciprocity, but merely projects a fantasy image of a lesser-self.

Counter-narratives, such as the ethnographies of Chin and Finckenauer (2012) and Renshaw et al., (2015) and those of film-makers like Li-Yang (and in Europe, Nick Mai) provide a more democratic account that listens to rather than just hears the voices of migrant workers and those left behind in the journey’s origin. In Li Yang’s case, this listening is potentially transformative as Blind Shaft give space to the rural perspective in which anti-trafficking law is viewed as a further entrenchment of severe culture-class inequality. The listening involved in that perspective is the inverse of the cultural imperialism of trafploitative narratives like those of the TiP reports, and mainstream Western film and tv dramas.


Welcome to Trans-national Im/mobility 301



This blog site is dedicated to the politico-historical sociology of the mobility and immobility of people in the globalized period.  The blogs introduce key issues in the sociological study of migration, including migration, agency, and constraint, gender and migration, migration and inequality, migration, religion, ethnicity, nationality and “race”.

Migration occurs on a continuum ranging from unfreedom through to freedom, with migrants and non-migrants experiencing different degrees of security or precarity and different degrees of enablement or constraint.  We will examine the stratification of migration and the role of migrants, states, social, economic, political and cultural contexts.

The blogs examine these issues of global (im)mobility in terms of:

  • gender and migration
  • elite, professional, and investment mobility
  • asylum seeker and refugee migration
  • migration networks and diasporas
  • “human trafficking” and “people smuggling”
  • Indigeneity and mobility rights
  • racism, multiculturalism, and xenophobia
  • segregation and integration
  • global risks, local interests, and international rights
  • comparative international contexts (Europe, U.S. China, India)
  • the criminalization of migration
  • people displacement, migration, and environment
  • people displacement, immobility, and inequality
  • sociological theories of global migration and immobility

Each blog will provide information and resource suggestions relating to the Global Migration lectures.

Lecture 1 (spring semester). Globalization theory: a sceptical introduction


I’m Dr. Matt Merefield, a historico-political sociologist working on trans-national migration and im/mobility, drawing on historical materialist and intersectional approaches.

I’d like to start by sharing a brief transnational autobiography with you, reflecting on my situation as a subject/citizen, imbued with particular attributes of class, gender, ethnicity, nationality and “race” [video1]

This course takes a historico-political sociological and intersectional approach to understanding trans-nationalism mobility and immobility, and the relationships between the two. Thus the course uses the hyphenated term “im/mobility”.

The course is primarily concern with the im/mobility of people. We examine how  im/mobility involves physical, social, and economic mobility for some, while others have their mobility restricted, are rendered immobile or, alternatively, are unable to stay (as is the case, for example, for refugees, and also for ). The course also examines contests over the desire (or ‘right’) to stay, and the conflicting relationships given to place by, for example Indigenous people and settlers, or elite and precarious residents in “global” or “world” cities such as London, Beijing and Sydney.

The course examines stratifications of im/mobility through the lens of people movements and stasis. In examining relationships between mobility an stasis we seek to understand how the mobility of some, for example, elite migrants, relates to the immobility of others such as precariously employed workers, or asylum seekers in camps and detention centres. Conversely, how does privileged stasis among elite groups related to coerced and forced mobility and ‘dis-habitation’ among precariat groups?

The course posits that the migration and stasis of people needs to be understood in relation to other kinds of im/mobilities including, for example, those of finance, economic, socio-cultural and political capital, goods and information. Accordingly our approach employs configurations of social, cultural, economic and political analysis that differ in terms of the balance between them in relation to the specific empirical matters being engaged with.

In the first semester we focus on people movements and use an intersectional approach to consider how categories such as class, gender, ethnicity, faith, nationality and “race” stratify people in terms of trans-nationalism, globalisation, mobility and migration.

In the second semester we focus on immobilities, reactions to trans-national mobilities and relationships between the two. Between the two semesters we aim to examine ways in which increasing connectedness is met with new and diverse forms of bordering and contest.

Some Key Globalization and “New Mobilities” concepts

This is not a course on globalization, nor does it follow the anti-materialist approach of the “New Mobilities” school (Urry, 2004; Cresswell et al, 2006). However in this and the third lecture we’re going to start by looking at key concepts of globalization, the sociological shift from the nation-state to the international, transnational and global, and “New Mobilities” as they have operated as nascent paradigm for understanding mobilities and immobilities in recent sociology.

Keep in mind the following questions:

  • What is the idea of globalization?
  • Is it a useful paradigm for understanding relationships between the infra, inter and transnational mobility dynamics?
  • Does a focus on flows and networks negate the importance of political and economic structure and relationship to place?

Sociology shifts from national to global and mobility paradigms

Let’s briefly map some of the developments in sociology that led up to the globalisation scholarship that began around the late 1980s.

Sociology early-mid 20th Century: bound to the national  context

Early sociological thinkers (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Comte, Spencer) were internationalist


  • Anthropologists focused on difference rather than commonality (often in an ‘Orientalist mode)
  • early to mid 20th century sociologists nation-focused, at a time of xenophobia, racial and ethno-nationalism (WWI)
  • Internationalism left to radical movements
  • English Sociologists focused on domestic social issues; the Great Depression; men at war, women in the workforce

Post 1945 transformations in sociology

  • US post war dominance
  • Imperial decline, de colonization, i.e, India, 1947…Indonesia 1949, Algeria, 1962
  • Proliferation of new state actors,
  • Cold War fought in other states
  • Universal Rights discourse and institutions
  • Decentred area/postcolonial studies; Cardosa, Alavi, Amin, Fanon, Patterson, rediscovery of De Bois
  • Civil rights, anti-racism

Internationalist sociology

Dependency theory Andre Gunder Frank

‘Modernization’ Talcott Parsons

‘Third World’ Peter Worsley

  • Shift from comparative internationalist thinking to thinking in terms of global processes and dynamics
  • Partial shift from the nation-state as the unit of analysis to interpenetration between states:
  • differentiate between different groups within states and their relation to corresponding groups in other states
  • Travel, Migration, Financial flows, Cultures in common

Thinking globally:  World Systems

  • Capitalist trade networks across nations more important than static political structures (states)
  • Core, semi-periphery, periphery bound together through transnational trade & competition
  • Logic of Accumulation dominates:
  • System expansive and self-protecting; tends to entrench advantage
  • Politically pluralist; economically unifying; socially divisive
  • World systems: Capitalism progressively ties more and more societies into the global market
  • System tends to maximise comparative advantage through adaption of labour & market relations
  • Criticisms: underplays importance of political and state structures (incl. state driven technological & commercial developments), colonial conquest and pathways

Globalization = the increasing interconnectedness of the world

Through greater movement and flows of people, finance, objects, information and ideas

  ….  across space ….

                                  and at a faster speed than in previous eras ….

“Compression of the world” bringing the far apart and different together” (Robertson, 1992:8)


How are the global and local connected? Held et al. distinguish between flows and networks.

Flows = movements of things, people, symbols, tokens and information across space

Networks = regularised or patterned interacts

Networks include those of communication and information technology, and interpersonal networks involving individuals and groups (Singh Grewal 2008).

The concept of globalization includes the supposition that an increasing number of social structures (e.g. states, cities, law) and social institutions (the family, religion, sport) are interconnected 21

Amin (2002: 395) argues, global networks allow innumerable business, cultural, migrant, political, criminal and other agents to ‘make space’ work for them by connecting and energizing their previously separate practices.

According to Castells (1996: 470), by the 1990s networks dependent on IT become the most dynamic and appropriate vehicles through which to deal with virtually all kinds of global activity, Cohen, Kennedy (Page 37).

Paul Ritzer (2010: 14) emphasizes the role of information technology.

Digital networks provide the technological infrastructure for the emergence of contemporary network-based social forms … enhancing the speed, flexibility, and global reach of information flows, allowing for communication at a distance in real time, … allowing communities to sustain interactions across vast distances.

People involved in networks can communicate all sorts of information to one another in various ways – telephone calls, snail-mail, e-mail, blogs, social networking sites, and so on. These networks have revolutionized and greatly expanded the global flow of information. As with all other structures, such networks can be blocked (or ‘bordered’) d in various ways (e.g. the “Great Firewall”).

Global Cities

The local and the global are also connected, or relayed through centrifugal nodes called “global” or “world” cities whose networks transcend and remodel that nation-state.

Global (Sassen 1991, 2013) and world cities (Derudder et al. 2012)  are increasingly interconnected with one another directly rather than through the nation-states in which they happen to exist. The financial markets of the world cities of New York, London, and Tokyo are tightly linked with the result that all sorts of financial products flow among them and at lightning speed ( Ritzer and Dean,  14).

Deterritorialization, supraterritorialization, and aterritoriality

A key aspect of globalization theory in relation to im/mobilities is the idea that the nation-state and its territory are being transgressed, or ‘debordered’ by globalizing flows (including the movement of people).

In globalization theories, frameworks for understanding, action and relationships shift beyond the local and national bordered territory  (Robertson, 1992:8).

Scholte (2005) originally used the term ‘deterritorialization” as the central feature of globalization. However, he came to think that the term exaggerated the extent to which the territorial (i.e., that  which is bounded within the nation state) had been overcome and re-developed his concept as “supraterritorialization”.

Supraterritoriality refers to a form of (re-)spatialization in which social space
is not confined by territory, distance or time.

Supraterritorialization is more than just transplanetary connection. It involves breaks with territorialist geography.

Supraterritorial relations involve not just an intensification of links across the world but different types of global connectivity. This intensification of links across boundaries also involves the decline of those boundaries. Links transcend and detach from territory. (Martell, 8/277)

Supraterritorialial linkages are more than just Time space Compression (David Harvey 1989), the shrinking of space, and the reduction of the time required by a wide range of processes, brought about by changes in transportation and communication technologies advanced mainly by capitalist corporations (Ritzer & Dean, 2012:238).

Compression is the intensification of links and relations. Scholte argues that Supraterritorialism involves new kinds of relations that transcend the bordered territory of the nation state.

These links involve simultaneity and instantaneity. Examples include telecommunications; global media; finance; migration; the internet; ecological problems; global consciousness.

Supre/de-territorialised nation states

The deterritorialising aspects of mobility problematise static concepts of the state, sovereignty, citizenship and subjectivity. The state is thought to have had its sovereignty diminished as global economic actors became powerful enough to dictate the forms of political economy required of nation-states. Evans (2009) focuses on the ways in which neoliberal globalization has weakened state interest in and capacity to implement national social policy. Actors such as the IMF have a strong influence over national government, including the extent of the welfare state. Conversely, states are not necessarily passive recipients but have, to differing degrees, the capacity to actively position themselves in accordance with the requirements of the global economy (Dadush and Shaw: 2012) Sassen (2006)
emphasized the role that state actions played in contributing to the
development of globalization.

Qualified critique of the territorial

Scholte’s supranationalism is qualified by the acknowledgement that the territorial remains important, especially in some areas: production, governance, ecology and,
allegiance. Global liquidity and flows are not assumed to be unhindered.

Held et al make a similar qualification in their concept of globalization as aterritorial. By this they mean it make involve activities that go beyond being coterminious with territories (activities that are deterritorialising), but also involve reterritorialization, involving globalization being established in regions and subnational areas, as well as encouraging, in some instances, nationalism (Held et al, Martell 10/277).

While claiming that global supraterritoriality is new,  Scholte conceded that  territories and borders remain important. Sceptics argue that it is hard to see how the examples he uses are anymore more than instances of transplanetary connections, and that his examples are better described as instances of liberalisation, internationalisation and westernisation (all dynamics predating globalization).

In terms of people movements, supraterritoriality (the global transformation of bordered territoriality) doesn’t appear to be empirically valid. If it were, there should be forms of borderless travel and migration on a global scale. Instead we have contested forms of movement within regional, international and national regulation, in combination with a minor degree of elite transnationalism (i.e, financial services, investment migration).

For Neil Brenner (1999) argued, globalization, to the degree that it consists of deterritorialisation – the increase in the intensity of the trans-bordered flows of processes such as capital, information, and communication which lend themselves to immediacy – is premised upon processes of re-territorialisation that facilitate these flows, wherein space is regulated in order to enable these temporal flows.

Re and de-territorialized spatio-temporalities – for example – those of the privileging (through, for example, the transnational architecture of financial deregulation) of global cities and their concentric maps of production – also work to re-border the global process of production Subsequently, as Gidwani and Sivaramakrishnan (200) observe, the compression of spatio-temporality is matched by its expansion, ‘with the result that some cities, countries and regions have become increasingly disassociated and marginalised’.

Globalism and Cosmopolitanism

One of the key ways globalization theorists think of interconnectedness is ideational and normative. Many globalization theorists have a committment to cosmopolitanism (see, for example, Archibugi and Held, 1995; Held, 1995; Archibugi, 2004). This involves the development of what is sometimes called global consciousness. Issues are seen as affecting people globally and as needing a global response rather than national responses. Human rights, war, ecological problems, drugs, crime, economic instability, inequality are some of the issues that cosmpolitans view as requiring a global response. For this, they turn to global fora and international interventions, based on cooperation grounded by a cosmopolitan consciousness.Other globalization theorists who see global consciousness as akey element of globalization include Robertson, Water (2001), and Holton (2005).

Global consciousness is thought to be developing in relation to shared opportunities and risks and opportunities:

Age of global Opportunity

  • New conditions of openess and democratic possibility (Robertson 1992, Albrow 1996)
  • Global crisis requires and therefore enables global cooperation (states cannot act alone)

e.g. global warming, refugees, tax regulation

  • Cohen & Kennedy (2012:10) suggest shared experience of global crisis enables fraternity between wealthy elites and poor

Age of Uncertainty: Global risks

“Global postmodernity” (Stuart Hall, 1992)

  • Uneven development and economic crisis = global uncertainty & insecurity:
  • stable lifetime employment replaced by casualisation, low incomes, lack of meaning & camaraderie

“Risk Society” (Ulrich Beck, 1992)

  • Societies united beyond borders by manufactured risk

e.g., man-made environmental risks: carbon consumption, nuclear power, deforestation

  • Blurring of boundaries between us/them (i.e., race, nation, gender)
  • Insecurity of meaning making and identity; age of anxiety
  • limited sovereignty and control of borders because of ‘global’ migration flows; diminished citizenship rights vis-a-vis cheap labour migration and welfare migration

Sociological approaches to the Globalization paradigm

  • Hyperglobalists; globalization as a new era in history, borderless world
  • Skeptics; globalization is not new; the extent of globalization overstated
  • Transformationalists; acknowledge criticism of skeptics, however, see globalization as the central driving force reshaping modern societies (Held et al, 1999)

Hyperglobalists and the supposed demise of the nation-state

Hyperglobalists argue that:

  • The global marketplace has increased in the last three decades and continues to increase
  • Globalization transcends national borders
  • Era of the nation state is over

With increasing economic globalization, transnational governance organizations and corporations = increasingly important.

  • National governments lose influence, forced to operate increasingly according to rules they do not create.
  • Demise of the welfare state?
  • Demise of sovereignty/ability to ‘protect’ borders?

Hyperglobalist perspective as an approach which sees globalization as a new epoch in human history. This new epoch is characterized by the declining relevance and authority of nation-states, brought about largely through the economic logic of a global market. Economies are becoming “denationalized.”

The spread liberal democracy will extend the global reach of more universal principles of economic and political organization. A truly global civilization will become possible.

Conflicting forms of hyperglobalism

Neo-liberal versus neo-Marxist orientations

  • Neo-liberals view globalization as largely a good thing (despite the risks it engenders), part of progress towards global civilization. They say that nearly all countries have a comparative advantage in one way or another. Some groups who will be worse off, but on the whole, the benefits are greater than in the past, and the advantages will ‘trickle down’.
  • Neo-Marxist: Global capitalism will only create and reinforce inequalities within and between countries.

Globalization Transformationalists

  • There is no single cause (the market or economic logic) behind globalization
  • The outcome of processes of globalization is not determined
  • While agreeing with some of the sceptics’ criticisms of the concept of globalization (and particularly hyperglobalization and the claim that the nation state has been deterritorialised) they argue that there is actually a process of transformation occuring involving some degree of globalization.

Critiques of transformationalist concepts of globalization.

The transformationalist approach doesn’t really take the concept of globalization further than the sceptics’ position. While some of the dynamic concepts such as networks and flows are empirically valid, they do not need to be anchored to the concept of globalization and its transcending of nation-state territoriality. Nation-states have been and are themselves transforming in relation to the transnational economy, but this may be better thought of in terms of the contemporary stages of capitalism. That is precsely the framework transformationalists wish to avoid, in line with their commitments to the cultural turn in sociology, and refutation of historical materialism. They therefore tie themselves in knots trying to save the concept of globalization despite agreeing with most of the criticisms of the concept raised by sceptics.

Historical materialist (“social”) transformationalists

Key migration theorists in the historical materialist tradition sometimes equate ‘globalization with neoliberalism”. Stephen Castles (2008), for example, a dominant political describes contradiction between the national principle upon which the sovereignty of states is founded, and the transnational principle of global mobility driven by  neoliberal principles of a ‘small state’, privatisation of utilities and services, economic deregulation and the opening of markets (especially those of developing countries) to global competition. Defining his approach in terms of “social transformations”, Castles analyses globalization and national sovereignty as undergoing complex transformations, as do the Weberian transformationalists. However, unlike Held et al., Castles positions its complexity in terms of the working of the global political economy.

Sceptics: national, inter, multi and tranationalism, not globalization

Sceptics doubt that what is called “globalization” is anything more than internationalism. Many multinational business flows, for example, are rooted in the company’s country of origin and involve trade relations between particular countries not relations of a global reach.

They also question whether things that are described as being global in reach are not actually limited by inequality, conflict and exclusion, and therefore less than global.

Some argue that internationalism was more intense in previous eras (particularly the belle epoque 1890-1914) and that without its claim of newness based on unprecedented connectedness, the concept of globalization fails.

Skeptics have been especially critical of the idea of deterritorialization, arguing that the national context remains important and that the role of the nation state has not been superceded by forms of global governance even if it has been limited to some extent by some forms of global and regional governance, or by neoliberalism. Even then, the nation state is an active participant in international and transnational dynamics, not a passive recipient.

Sociologist Smitha Radhakrishnan argues for the use of transnationalism as a scale of analysis (we will discuss her work later in the semester when looking at elite migration). Radhakrishnan argues that the academic concept of the global is vague, refers to multiple things, and follows Manuel Castell’s and others in seeing the concept as defining nothing more than “a realm of interaction that is counterposed with the “local”. When the concept is applied to empirical contexts, it becomes difficult to designate which practices are produced in the local and which are produced in the global because the global has been shown to always take place in the local (Burawoy et al, 2000; Hart, 2002).

Sociology, as we noted above, was traditionally bound by the nation state. Class, for example, was theorized as stratfication, division and conflict in the context of national economies and societies (Bourdieu 1984; 1995; Weber, 1978; Marx). Those nation states were often implicity theorised as unitary actors within a global political economy. Marxist system theory maintained the notion of class competition as internal to the nation state.

More recently, theorists have anaysed class divisions across rather than (just) between nation states. Aihwa Ong (1999) and Leslie Sklair (2001) examined the practices of elite business people controlling capital across national boundaries. Ong’s (1999) ‘flexible citizenship’ describes a resourcing process in which travelling or displaced subjects to respond fluidly and opportunistically to changing political-economic conditions within the  cultural logic of capitalist accumulation. For Ong, it is access to resources and resourcefulness rather than mobility that is the issue (Skeggs, 51).

For Radhakrishnan, “transnationalism” can be used to examine “the connections and relationships between different places” (Levitt and Khagram 2008; Mitchell 2002; Yeoh, Willis and Fakhri 2003). The term allows us to maintain a focus on the national while examining the ways in which it is transgressed.

Useful concepts but not a paradigm

That the global is not a useful academic concept for the scale of analysis does not mean that its popular uses are not of interest, nor that its array of associated concepts are not important. The use of the global as an idea of cosmopolitanism, or the transgression of national boundaries or borders is central to many studies of mobility, including, for example Radhakhrishnan’s own study of elite Indian labour mobility.


Martell, Luke, (2017), Introduction: Concepts of Globalization, The Sociology of Globalization. Wiley.(Ch. 1-2)

Kennedy, P (2010) Local Lives and Global Transformations: Towards World Society,

Castles, S. (2008) Migration and Social Transformation, Migration Studies Unit Working Paper, No. 2008/1, LSE.

Cohen, R. and Kennedy, P. (2013) Global Sociology, 3rd Edition, Basingstoke: Macmillan, Held et al, (1999) Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture (Ch. 1)

Hall, S. & Gieben, B. eds., (1992) Formations of Modernity, Cambridge, Open University Press(Ch. 6)

Beck, U. (1992) The Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, London, Sage

Dadush, U. and W. Shaw (2012) ‘Is the Labour Market Global?’, Current History,
111 (741), 9–13.

Evans, P. (2009) ‘Is an Alternative Globalization Possible?’, Politics and Society,
36 (2), 271–305

Harvey, D (1989) The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Oxford: Blackwell.

Scholte (2005) Globalization: A Critical Introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Radhakrishnan, S. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class, Duke University Press

Roudometof, V. (2016) Glocalization: A Critical Introduction, London & New York, Routledge

Sassen, S. (2006) Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Holton, R. J. Global Networks. London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Cohen, R and Van Hear, N. (2008) Global Diasporas: An Introduction, Abingdon, Oxon. And New York, Routledge

Chua, A (2004) World on Fire: How Exporting Free-Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, London, Arrow Books

Albrow, M.(1996) The Global Age, Cambridge, Polity

Robertson, R. (1992) Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, London, Sage.

Ritzer, G., Dean, P. Globalization: A Basic Text

Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society, vol. 1, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Oxford: Blackwell (rev. edn 2000).

Urry, J (2000) Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty-first Century, London: Routledge.

Urry, J (2003) Global Complexity, Cambridge: Polity.


Lecture 2 (spring semester). Trans/national political economy: viewing inequality through an intersectional lens



  • How does trans/national inequality work through combinations of different categories?
  • Matrix of domination (Professor Hill Collins)
  • Transnational garment industry, intersectional exploitation, forms of intersectional resistance

Some key categories of intersection

Age, caste, class, disability, ethnicity, faith, nationality, “race”, sexuality

What is intersectionality?

  • Intersectionality is a way of understanding and analyzing the complexity in the world, in people, and in human experiences. The events and conditions of social and political life and the self can seldom be understood as shaped by one factor.
  • They are generally shaped by many factors in diverse and mutually influencing ways.
    • major axes of social divisions in a given society at a given time,
    • for example, race, class, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, and age operate not as discrete and mutually exclusive entities,
    • but build on each other and work together. Hill Collins and Bilge, (2016:4)

Analysing inequalities requires intersectionality?

..economic inequality does not fall equally on everyone. Rather than seeing people as a homogeneous, undifferentiated mass, intersectionality provides a framework for explaining how social divisions of race, gender, age, and citizenship status, among others, positions people differently in the world, especially in relation to global social inequality. Hill Collins and Bilge, (2016:15)

The place of class in intersectional analysis

.. when formulating class inequality one should have race and gender in view as well. Capital is intersectional. It always intersects with the bodies that produce the labor. Therefore, the accumulation of wealth is embedded in the racialised and engendered structures that embody it (Eisenstein, 2014, in Hill Collins and Bilge, 2016:16)

  • Using intersectionality as an analytic tool encourages us to move beyond seeing social inequality through race-only or class-only lenses. … of social inequality based on interactions among various categories. Hill Collins and Bilge, 2016:26
  • For Hill Collins (1997), Intersectionality works with a ‘working hypothesis’ of equivalence between oppressions’. For Nancy Fraser (1995) , however, the relative importance of different oppressions is historically contingent on the particular context and power relations. No aspect should be neglected, but one or more aspect may have particular importance in certain situations.

While focussing on key intersections such as gender and ‘race’, much of the scholarship employing an intersectional approach elides or neglects the category of class (Mann, 2012: 112). This is sometimes because of the way that Marxist intersectionalists reduce other aspects of oppression to the dimension of class, in line with the tendency of some traditional versions of Marxism towards an overdetermining economism and neglect of categories such as gender and ‘race’, or subordination of such dimensions as aspects of class  (Bohrer, 2018: 49-50; Giminez, 2001 ;Smith and Smith, 1983:122; Alcoff, 2011; Gedalof, 2013).

Bohrer argues (2018), however, that an intersectional marxist approach is necessary to the study of inequality and oppression because of the context of capitalism and the distinctive place of ‘class’ as a dimension . Bohrer (54) follows Gimenez in arguing that “class oppression is distinctive and necessitates a different kind of treatment, politically and theoretically, than race and gender”. This differential treatment

requires a wholesale analysis of capitalism as a system and a structure of material
relations of production and reproduction, accumulation and dispossession,
which has its roots in political economy and effects in the multifaceted
realms of culture, ideology and politics (Bohrer, 54).

For Bohrer (2018), capitalism is the ‘matrix of domination’ capitalism, in which slavery, colonialism, patriarchy, white supremacy, were forms of race, class, gender and sexuality inseparable oppressions that were historically concreted in and through one another. Within this Marxist-intersectional analysis, capitalism is the synthesis of class, race, gender, sexuality, colonisation and imperialism systems of dispossession. Thus class cannot be considered the master-term of capitalist accumulation and antagonism, but merely one of the dimensions of oppression.

Class retains its distinctive analytical and historical importance in the shift from feudal social relations to wage labour Marx (1876) analysed, but is augmented by gendered and raced and postcolonial analysis.

Silvia Federici (2004), Maria Mies (1986) and many other Marxist feminists have shown the structual reliance of capitalism on what they called ‘social reproduction’ – the unwaged labour of cooking, cleaning, subsistence farming, bearing and rearing children, and multiple modes of affective and care work. This labour, undertaken primarily by women, allows the capitalist to glean the benefits of reproductive labour necessary for the waged worker to enter the formal economy without payingfor it; Mies termed it “super exploitation” and Frederici analysed it is a form of ongoing “primitive exploitation” .

Historical materialist feminists operate of form of stretching of Marxist analysis, pointing to the intersection of gender and class oppression. As we will see throughout the course, a historical materialist perspective is stretched across other forms of intersection. Anne McClintock (1995) and Maria Lugones (2003), for example,  stretch Marxist analysis to include patriarchy, white supremacy, colonisation (both direct and indirect) and heterosexualism.

Core ideas for intersectional analysis

  • For Hill Collins and Bilge, Intersectionality involves a commitment to examining how Power contributes Social Inequality in all of its Interconnected Complexity, paying careful attention to Specific social contexts in order to work towards Social justice

Power is relational (about interconnectedness)

Within intersectional frameworks, there is no pure racism, sexism or class-discrimination. Rather, power relations of racism and sexism gain meaning in relation to one another.

Example: chattel slavery = classed, raced and gendered discrimination

Intersectional matrix of domination (4 domains of power)

  • Structural

The institutional, organizational level

  • Disciplinary

The level of social rewards and punishments

  • Cultural

Power transmitted through ideas and media

  • Interpersonal

Power plays out in the realm of everyday interaction among people

Particular Social Contexts

  • Paying attention to the specific historical, intellectual, locational (space, place), cultures and political contexts grounds intersectional analysis
  • For example, ideas of “race”, and their relationship to class, and gender different depending on how they are specifically situated. (Cohen and Kennedy)

The worldwide garment industry through an intersectional lens

A trans/ational industry?

  • Let’s have a look at the clothing label for our shirts/tops
  • What countries are they produced in
  • Let’s record them on the board here:
  • We should see an indicate range of garment producing countries, and maybe some countries feature in particular
  • What does that tell us about the garment industry?

Historical context: The trans/national “race to the bottom”

  • Late 17th C + England industrial revolution via cotton textile factories & their technological advances
  • Global supplier of cotton 1800’s to 1930s
  • Key to British wealth in this period
  • Rural-to-urban migration for factory work: women from the rural areas; children from the poor houses (5years +)Factory owners preferred women and children to men:
    • Cheaper
    • More docile (prepared to accept drudgery and severe fatigue)
  • Copying British technology, American industrial revolution developed rapidly; by late 1800s the world’s largest mills in New England
  • By early 1900s US surpassed Britain in cloth production, taking much of the US, European and (eventually) Chinese market
  • factories reliant on rural-to-urban young female migrants (often children)Americans also preferred “docile’ workers who would accept very poor working conditions (70 hr weeks, 12 hr days, heat, short meal breaks)Discipline included Church attendance; “moral purity”; a condition of employment
  • Production moved to southern states (the Piedmont area, South Carolina) where there was much greater use of child labour and weaker regulation (so greater productivity, cheaper wages, worse conditions)
  • late 1920s, more than half of Japan’s industrial workers employed in textiles, which comprised two-thirds of the country’s exports.
  • By the mid-1930s, Japan would have approximately 40 percent of the world’s exports of cotton goods. textiles
  • Japanese leadership in the industry was based on low labor costs and poor working condition
  • wages for cotton mill workers in Japan were 20 to 47 percent lower than wages in the United States and England (Rivoli, 101-2)
  • Workers were young women escaping a life of subsistence agriculture in the countryside,
  • Again, preferred for their docility, cheapness, endurance of harsh conditions + ‘‘ night work,’’ which doubled productivity; 3-5 year contractual arrangement not unlike indentured servitude; young women shared not only beds, but even pajamas in crowded boardinghouses;  confined by fences topped with bamboo spears and barbed wire; Food was scant, sanitation was poor, and disease was widespread. (Rivoli, 102)
  • By mid 1970’s the “Asian tigers” Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan dominated textile & apparel industries
  • Industries drive by cheap and “docile” rural to urban female labour
  • Wages for textile workers in these countries were about 7 percent of the level in the United States and perhaps 15 percent of the level in Japan. Rivoli, (p. 104).
  • Then from the 1990’s China has been dominant, while smaller countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Romania have also established strengths
  • In China, also on the basis of rural-to-urban female migrant workers, and perhaps this will continue for longer (given the lare size of the cheap labour, and the state regulation restricting urban settlement (through the Hukou registration card system) Rivoli (109)

Historical political economy shifting regimes of garment industry

19th-century despotic regime:

 the factory overseer of the industrial revolution coerced labor from workers without any state intervention

= harshly exploitative working conditions not redressed by state regulation

20th-century hegemonic regime:

characterized by welfare policies and workplace protections.

Consent, rather than coercion, predominate…

since workers’ and capitalists’ interests are coordinated, providing a degree of worker autonomy that normalizes and obscures exploitation and dampens collective resistance. Plankey-Videla (introduction)

  • Under conditions of increased international competitiveness, Burawoy argues that capitalist firms will seek cheaper costs of production in new regions or countries.
  • Hegemonic despotism = “is the ‘rational’ tyranny of capital mobility over the collective worker. . . . The fear of being fired is replaced by the fear of capital flight, plant closure, transfer of operations, and plant disinvestment” (Burawoy, 1985, 150).
  • Capital’s hypermobility drives the “race to the bottom,” with falling wages and deteriorating working conditions.
  • Workers— who are generally not as mobile— are disciplined by an increasingly mobile employer that pits them in different locations against each other; this drives concession bargaining and undermines workers’ movements Plankey-Videla (introduction).

Garment industry built on intersectional and international exploitation

  • Built on exploitation on the basis of class, gender, age (children), location (rurality)
  • Vulnerable groups who may have little other viable alternatives, and may lack the power to resist exploitation
  • Arguably, this has been and remains the continued ideal wherever the “race to the bottom” has been won.

Let’s next have an intersectional look at one allegedly “docile” workforce in particular, drawing on Hill Collins and Bilge, Pietra Rivoli and Naila Kabeer’s 2002 chapter “Renegotiating Purdah: women workers’ labour market decisions in Dhaka”

An intersectional analysis of the transational garment industry, the Rana Plaza atrocity and resistance to labour exploitation

Rana Plaza fire & building collapse 2013

  • Rana Plaza located in Dhaka Bangladesh housed dozens of garment factories
  • The fire & building collapse caused the deaths of 1,129 workers, injuring another 2,500
  • Considered the deadliest garment industry incident
  • However, less deadly incidents are so common they often don’t make the news

Intersectional social context 2: political economy: place, space

The Rana Plaza collapse: significance of abysmal factory working conditions in Bangladesh and beyond

  • Neoliberal political economy of the garment industry
  • Intersectionality of disadvantage and exploitation
  • Relationality (interconnectedness) of resistance

Neoliberalism of global garment trade in Bangladesh

Garment industry = especially bad erosion of workers rights

Located in Bangladesh for cheap, abundant and seemingly obedient workers

Lax regulatory system: safety overlooked, low compliance with international labour standards

Consequentially: workers lack fair pay, job security, safety, and civil-political rights (ability to organise and protest)

Sociological questions: domains of power-relations in garment industry

Interpersonal domain

Which kinds of people become workers in the garment industry?

Disciplinary domain

How do managers, companies and states exploit and control workers?

Structural domain

What governs location of factories in particular countries?

Cultural domain

What are the social norms that send young women into factories?

What are the consumption cultures that neglect/normalize the conditions of work/production?

Intersectional analysis: multiply-disadvantaged workers

  • Highly feminised workforce
  • Use of child labor in some countries
  • Regime favours use of (rightless) undocumented migrant workers
  • Vulnerable to economic exploitation and physical and sexual abuse: poverty, illiteracy, gender, age, immigration status, “race”, caste, ethnicity
  • Lack of effective agency/rights in terms of labour conditions results in poor working conditions and low wages overdetermined by threat of factory relocation to cheaper more pliable workforce/location if this one becomes “less competitive” (hegemonic despotic regime)
  • Regime supported by consumer culture, desire for cheap and (newly) fashionable clothing in Western (+other) markets

Intersectional account of garment workers agency

Intersection axes of exploitation

  • So far we have focussed on accounts of how garment workers are/have been exploited in the axes of class, gender, age, location, migration status
  • We have found that the exploiters often value/d a combination of axes that resulted in greater vulnerability, powerlessness and therefore compliance with exploitation (the much desired “docile” work force)

Intersectional aspects of agency

Let’s have a look now at some of the ways that some garment workers might have exercised agency in their intersectional aspects

Garment workers motivations for and valuing of migration and work

  • Liberation from patriarchal norms/renegotiating gender relations
  • Self-development including education, leisure
  • Challenging urban/rural discriminatory culture
  • Greater income, ability to support family and self

Examples of agency in choice to/valuing of garment work

For Chinese garment workers and their “sisters in time”, factory work has provided:

  • a step up the economic ladder and an escape from the physical and mental drudgery of the farm;
  • a first taste of autonomy and self-determination,;
  • a set of choices made possible by a paycheck, however small; including
  • a choice to escape boredom, escape a betrothal or a domineering father, … the chance to choose their own clothing (Rivoli, 2015:112)

Bangladeshi  women choosing to work in the garment factories gained:

  • A step up the economic ladder for selves and family
  • degrees of autonomy, self-determination, self-development
  • Redressing patriarchal gender imbalance at home/in society while negotiating cultural/gender norms in transformed conditions (where some men cannot support families) Kabeer, N. (2002)

Constrained choices

  • The specific context is important: some garment workers might be regarded as being forced or coerced into factory work (by capitalist, gendered, religious oppressions) while others exercise some degree of freedom of choice
  • Decision making may involve a combination of all three (force, coercion, freedom)

Karl Marx’s (1852) idea suggests a mix of freedom and constraint:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Karl Marx 1852

Bounded Rationality

When individuals make decisions, they do not do so under optimum conditions that allow them to be completely rational and able to fully weigh all the possible risks and rewards surrounding their decision and choice.

Constraints might include, for example:

  • time constraints;
  • a lack of information or misinformation about certain options; peer pressure;
  • lack of access to alternatives ….[people] make what may appear to them to be the best decision or choice given their circumstances at the time. Consequently, their decision making is bounded—constrained or restricted—by their social, physical, and situational contexts, and their perceptions of those contexts. The individual assessments of the costs, risks, and benefits involved are subjective, which is why … different women in the same circumstances might make different decisions Chin, K. (2012:63)

Docility” and resistance

  • The term “docile” actually disguises forceful relations
  • Pinkey-Videla describes the industrial revolution factories as exercising despotic power; this might be true also of the more recent and current Japanese, Chinese, US factories Rivoli discusses
  • Rivoli’s and Kabeer’s examples show that apparently “docile” workers were actually engaged in resistance against, for example, structural or cultural aspects of discrimination or exploitation, and/or expressing agency in terms of positive choices for selves/families

Resistance at Moctezuma garment factory 1

Plankey-Videla’s Questions

The women garment workers at Moctezuma knew that strike action was likely to result in loss of “race to bottom”, and therefore unemployment and poverty. Striking was not in their economic best interests?

So, why did they decide to strike?

What does this tell us, if anything, about an intersectional analysis?

(Plankey-Videla, 2012:396)

Political-economic context for strike decision

  • declining wages and benefits, management breach of their social pact with workers (sackings, low wages against previous agreement)
  • an oppressive feeling of continual supervision from coworkers and managers
  • threats of capital mobility to cheaper countries, media’s portrayal of globalization as a race to the bottom
  • increased opportunities to migrate to the United States, l
  • local democratization, and heightened awareness of collective resistance—
  • However, workers aware that the firm paid above-average wages and provided extensive benefits, which allowed them to fulfill their family responsibilities.
  • Motherist culture at factory, recognising women’s family responsibilities = consent (hegemonic despotic regime)They changed the rules to grant team members special permits to miss work to care for sick children or attend school and, in the process, built a collective identity as working mothers.They developed self-management teams in line with the motherist culture, developing leadership roles for (and antagonisms amongst) the women workersEnhanced autonomy of self-managed teams promoted solidarity rooted in women’s collective identity as mothers
  • Even single mothers who were the main or sole provider for their families saw their work as fulfilling the dutiful mother role. Thus women’s identities as primarily mothers meant most were loath to protest deteriorating work conditions because voicing their discontent could cost them their jobs.
  • Managers lamented the lost productivity from time given for family duties but supported the motherist culture because it achieved sufficient “docility” (compliance)
  • In line with Mexican traditions that exalted the values of motherhood = manufactured consent Plankey-Videla (2012:450-477)).

Subverting Motherist culture

Workers’ framed the strike as a defense of the most vulnerable workers— single mothers.

They used beliefs around motherhood to challenge the firm’s authority as benevolent patriarch.

While still identifying as mothers, they increasingly interpreted their interests as also class-based and antithetical to management’s interests. Plankey-Videla(481-514)

Transforming identities: mothers and workers who deserved jobs with dignity and living wages

Work became more than a way to support one’s family; it transformed into a source of newfound independence, authority, self-esteem, and meaning

So: intersectionally understood: the strike

= Contests over the value of female gender and working class

+ it also led to the striking garments workers’

alliances with actors resisting other axes of exploitation including broader class and political issues

Interconnected (g/local) resistance 1

Responding to the Rana Plaza atrocity also gave rise to g/local political action against bad factory conditions

Hill Collins & Bilge, (2016:1999)argue that global anti-sweatshop movements  draw on the intersectional analysis of garment industry exploitation and collaborate through global coalitions of workers right and Western consumer activists, using social media; Rana plaza led to an agreement among global and Bagladeshi unions for better working conditions and wages

  • Global anti-sweatshop movement faces intersectional complexity: it includes groups with different identities, interests and priorities
  • Intersectionality poses the questions of the kinds of analysis and political practice that might enable sufficient solidarity to serve the divergent interests of groups marked by different axes of inequality and aspects of power-relations
  • For Professor Hill Collins and Bilge, this points back to the structural over-determination of global capitalism, ideologies and policies of neoliberalism, and their configurations of social divisions and hierarchies based on class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, “race”, faith, disability, nation and location
  • Global anti-sweatshop movement faces intersectional complexity: it includes groups with different identities, interests and priorities
  • Intersectionality poses the questions of the kinds of analysis and political practice that might enable sufficient solidarity to serve the divergent interests of groups marked by different axes of inequality and aspects of power-relations
  • For Professor Hill Collins and Bilge, this points back to the structural over-determination of global capitalism, ideologies and policies of neoliberalism, and their configurations of social divisions and hierarchies based on class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, “race”, faith, disability, nation and location

Intersectional Sociological Resistance

  • Resistance within any specific matrix of domination – particularly the hegemonic and interpersonal structures – can occur when individuals pursue self-determining possibilities.
  • Individuals can: • interrogate themselves to understand their predicament, including how their actions oppress others
  • • deconstruct and deny the dominant values that define some people as inferior and less worthy than others
  • • reconstruct knowledge in dialogue with others embroiled in the same •
  • reflect on shared personal experiences and moral responsibilities towards both the self and others whom the same or different kinds of inequality oppress. Cohen and Kennedy (2012:167).


Bohrer, A. (2018), “Intersectionality and Marxism: A Critical Historiography”, Historical Materialism, 26/2, 46-74.

Cohen, R. and Kennedy, P (2013), “Race, ethnicity, and Intersectionality”, Chapter 9, Global Sociology, Palgrave Macmillan.

Federici, Silvia 2004, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive
Accumulation, New York: Autonomedia.

Hill Collins, P. and Bilge, S. (2016), Intersectionality, Polity.

Kabeer, N. (2002), “Renegotiating Purdah: women workers’ labour market decisions in Dhaka”, chp. 4, in The Power to Choose: Bangladeshi Women and Labour Market Decisions in London and Dhaka, London, Verso

Lugones, Maria (2003), Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition against Multiple Oppressions, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Marx, Karl 1967 [1876], Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, edited by Friedrich
Engels, New York: International Publishers.

McClintock, Anne (1995), Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial
Contest, New York: Routledge.

Mies, Maria (1986), Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the
International Division of Labour, First Edition, London: Zed Books.

Plankey-Videla, (2012), Introduction “We Are in this Dance Together”, in We Are in This Dance Together: Gender, Power, and Globalization at a Mexican Garment Firm, Rutgers University Press.

Rivoli, P. (2012), The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade. Wiley. Chapters Six, Seven.

Draft: Lecture 3 (spring semester). Trans/national im/mobilities



“New Mobilities”?

According to some globalization theorists: we are living in an age of increasing mobilities, and increasing connectedness and complexity

  • conveying material goods by sea, rail and air
  • individuals crossing borders as tourists, businesspeople, students or migrants
  • various political, business or scholarly elites between global cities

We might add Social mobilities; movements or stasis within the social hierarchy

New Mobility Vs. Structure

  • The new mobilities paradigm privileges systems of human transportation, migration and boundary transcendence as the defining feature of late modernity (Cresswell, 2006; Cresswell and Merriman, 2011; Hannam et al. 2006; Urry, 2004).
  • The flow of people across time and space; the identities, cultures and politics of migration; Diaspora; and transnationalism have become core concerns for sociologists working in this space (Blagg, 2016).
  • John Urry (2000) proposed ‘new rules of sociological method’ based on mobility. Urry (2007) argues that the twenty-first century be regarded as an era of
    fluidity and openness, in which changes in transportation, technology and culture are normalising people’s experience of thinking beyond borders along with crossing them frequently. Diverse forms of people mobility  including movements for purposes of study, professional advancement, marriage,
    retirement or lifestyle were assuming greater significance; correspondingly, older ideas migration were becoming less relevant.
  • Urry (2000:18) argued that Sociology needed to ‘develop through appropriate metaphors a sociology which focuses upon movement, mobility and contingent ordering, rather than upon stasis, structure and social order’ .
  •  Urry’s new mobility paradigm is deterritorial, based on the idea that we now live in a “post-societal” culture in which mobility is the determining feature that frames social relations, not structures or positions.He  suggested that ‘networks’, ‘fluids’, ‘flows’ and ‘mobilities’ were more useful than “‘society’, ‘structures’ and ‘institutions’, which conjure up images of territorial fixity…” (Urry; 2000, 2003; Cohen and Kennedy: 41).
  • It is also (relatively) free of stratification. Urry argued that mobility can be understood best in a horizontal rather than a vertical sense, thereby flattening out the differences (Skeggs,. 48).

Social Transformationalists

Stephen Castles critiques the idea of a shift from structures to flows, and correspondingly, from academic discourse centre on migration to the new discourse of mobilities. He argued that

The postmodern utopia of a borderless world of mobility has not yet dawned, so that it still seems appropriate to focus on migration as a process based on inequality and discrimination, and controlled and limited by states (2011:1567).

Mobility, Castles (2011: 1567) suggested, invoked movements of the highly
skilled professional mobility, celebrated because they represented the badge of a modern open society, whilewhile those of the lower-skilled were condemned as unwanted migration that ‘re-awakened archaic memories of invasion and displacement’. Castles followed Bauman (1998) in arguing that “the right to be mobile is more class-specific and selective than ever”. Rather than a world of unhindered flows, structure and agency remained crucially important, partially determining the contemporary stratifications enabled free mobility amongst elite groups while restricting the mobility of the poor.

 Im/mobility, agency, stratification

The ultimate issue is not who moves or is fixed, but who has control – not only over their mobility and connectivity, but also over their capacity to withdraw and disconnect. The point is that the poor have to put up with that from which others can move. (Skeggs,  50; Graham and Morley, 1998)

Bauman (1998:86) described the stratifications of postmodern consumer society in terms of freedom, or lack of freedom of mobility. The de-bordered (de-territorialised) freedom of mobility belongs to the realms of the world’s ‘tourists’, while the world’s vagabonds suffer stasis and forced or ‘unfree’ mobilities. He later differentiated between individualized and deracinated Western consumers and the ‘wasted lives’ of the rest who suffer forms of stasis (Bauman, 2004). Agency over mobility is dichotomised betweenthose who ‘cannot at will leave their place’ are the ‘ruled’, and those ‘rulers’ able to ‘be elsewhere’ (Bauman 2001: 120).

Aihwa Ong (1999) and Leslie Sklair (2001) examined the practices of elite business people controlling capital across national boundaries. Ong’s (1999) ‘flexible citizenship’ describes a resourcing process in which travelling or displaced subjects to respond fluidly and opportunistically to changing political-economic conditions within the  cultural logic of capitalist accumulation. For Ong, it is access to resources and resourcefulness rather than mobility that is the issue (Skeggs, 51).

Duval and Jordan similar describe a class of elite migrant able to transgress national boundaries. Such actors are grounded in national ties and state practices, yet able to mobilize (capital, labour, selves) across national boundaries. Within the neo-liberal paradigm the right to free movement and the punishment of stasis depends upon the individual’s ability to ‘make the required contribution’, and those migrants that represent a cost to the members of the (Northern) political communities ‘surrender their moral autonomy as well as their democratic sovereignty’ (Duvell and Jordan, 2005:97).Duvell and Jordan, similarly, write of the new channels of mobility that globalization demands for the ‘global nomads’ consisting of ‘financial, managerial and technical elites, and a range of highly skilled workers’ (Duvell and Jordan, 2005:60).

Morley (2000) argues immobility increasingly acquires the connotation of defeat, of failure and of being left behind, of being fixed in place. Yet for some people, fixed places may also be symbolic habitats, a performative way of life and of doing things, in which one makes the most of the cultural resources to hand.

Precarity and the loss of positive stasis  (immobility)



Indigeneity and the loss of positive stasis (immobility)








Bourdieu, Pierre, 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of Judgement and Taste, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Burawoy, Michael; Blum, J.A; Sheba, G, Gille, S; Gowan, L.H; Klawiter, M; Lopez, S.H; O Riain; Thayer, M (2000) Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections, and Imaginations in a Postmodern World, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society, vol. 1, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Oxford: Blackwell (rev. edn 2000).

Cohen, R. and Kennedy, P. (2013) Global Sociology, 3rd Edition, Basingstoke: Macmillan

Hart, G.P, (2002) Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Moore, Henrietta L. (2004) Global Anxieties: Concept Metaphors and Pre-Theoretical Commitments in Anthropology, Anthropological Theory, 4 (1) 72-88.

Radhakrishnan, S. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class, Duke University Press

Urry, J. (2000) Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty-first Century, London: Routledge.

Urry, J. (2003) Global Complexity, Cambridge: Polity.

Urry, J. (2007) Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity

Wallerstein, I. (1974) The Modern World-system I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-economy in the Sixteenth Century, New York, Academic Press

Lecture 4 (spring semester).Why and how people migrate within and beyond national borders

Migration reasons, networks and scale (infra, international, global)

  • What is a migrant?
  • Do people migrate because of push or pull factors? Or sometimes Both?
  • Does the political economy structure their choices/actions?
  • Migration Networks
  • How can we characterize migration  in relation to internal mobility, international mobility and globalisation?

King, R (2012) “Theories and Typologies of Migration: An Overview and Primer”

Who or what is a Migrant?

  • International migrant: “any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some significant social ties to this country.” (United Nations)
  • Citizens, residents, settled immigrants (ius sanguinis), irregular/undocumented/illegal migrants
  • Internal migration: rural to urban migration; world cities, displacement, immobility

Ritzer, George; Dean, Paul. Globalization: A Basic Text (p. 264).Tthe UN estimates there are 232 million international migrants, or about 3.2% of the world’s population (UN 2013b).

Who or what isn’t a migrant?

The Immobility Paradox

  • Wage + unemployment differences in diverse locations suggest many more people should migrate.

Why don’t they?

  • Positive choice; people are rooted: family ties, jobs, culture, feeling at home
  • Lack of choice: poverty, political, institutional barriers

Malmerg, G 1997

Is it because they do not want to, or cannot? “It is one of the ironies of globalisation that whilst goods, capital, knowledge, entrepreneurship and the media are free to flow across borders, labour, that other crucial factor of production, is not. In fact, on the whole people are less free to migrate now than they were a hundred years ago”

King, R 5-6.

Why do people migrate: push-pull theory (based on neo-classical economics)

Push factors operating from the region or country of origin

  • Poverty, unemployment, landlessness, rapid population growth, political repression, low social status, poor marriage prospects etc.

Pull factors operating from the place or country of destination:

  • Better income and job prospects, better education and welfare systems, land to settle and farm, good environmental and living conditions, political freedom

Neoclassical economic paradigm

  • Economics paradigm, based on principles of utility maximisation, rational choice, factor-price differentials between regions and countries, and labour mobility.
  • Macroeconomic: migration results from the uneven spatial distribution of labour re other factors of production (land, capital).
  • Micro level, migration: the result of decisions made by individual ‘rational actors’ who weigh up the pros and cons of moving relative to staying, based on abundant information about the options.
  • Cost-benefit calculus) decisions based on returns to the individual’s investment in his or her human capital (Sjaastad, 1962; Borjas, 1989).

Criticisms of the neoclassical approach

Neoclassical approach neglects:

  • why so few people actually migrate, despite the apparent incentives to do so;
  • why some countries have high rates of out-migration whilst others (with the same structural economic conditions) have very low rates (Arango, 2004: 19-20)
  • personal, family or socio-cultural factors
  • multiple barriers to international movement
  • post-colonial pathways: histories of colonialism that linked certain countries together and not others
  • dependency and underdevelopment in the world economy
  • Other theoretical frameworks: Marxist political economy, historical developmentalism, systems theory, ‘new economics’ of migration (1970s -1980s).King, R (2012:14)

Historical-structural models

Causes of international migration; historically formed macro-structural forces, exploitative + inequitable global capitalism (Morawska 2012: 55).

Marxist interpretation of capitalism, (under) development, and the structuring of the world economy; dual and segmented labour markets, dependency theory, and world systems theory.

Dual Labour Market

Migrants are pulled (not pushed): international labour migration primarily driven by demand for cheap and flexible labour in advanced industrialised countries (Piore M. J. 1979)

Dual labour market  (advanced industrialised countries):

 primary labour market = secure, well-paid jobs for native workers; secondary labour market = low-skill, low-wage, insecure and generally unpleasant jobs in factories and the service sector, filled mainly by migrant workers because such jobs are shunned by local workers.

The very presence of migrant workers reinforces the undesirability of these secondary-sector jobs for the local labour force, which in turn enables employers to drive down wages and working conditions even more.

Segmented labour market; creation of these jobs precedes the migrants who fill them (Samers 2010: 65). UK, post war transport, health; 1990s-2000s… agriculture, service, food prep, construction, ….

Why do Foreign workers accept these poor positions?

a)Lack of bargaining power (especially if they are undocumented)

b)poor wages and jobs preferable to poverty/unemployment

Global Cities

  • Clustering of corporate headquarters, financial centres and related producer services. London and New York , Sydney, Shanghai, ….
  • Very low-income inhabitants geared to serve the needs of high-income inhabitants.
  • High end; finance, investors, professionals
  • Low-end; restaurants and hotel workers, cleaning office and house cleaners, carers (children, elderly, disabled); “precariat work” (Standing 2011); mainly undertaken by immigrants from poor countries

World Systems Theory

Global market economy + ‘new international division of labour’ NIDL (Froebel et al. 1980) asymmetric ties of trade, capital penetration and migration

  • ‘Core’ = dominant capitalist powers
  • ‘Periphery’: dependent on ‘core’ through.
  • ‘Semi-periphery’ intermediate in terms of their wealth and interdependent status

Wallerstein, 1974, 1979

  • Capitalist penetration into periphery dislodges rural labour and traditional patterns of employment and subsistence, creating possible mobile labour
  • This re/production of a ‘reserve army’ (Marxist term) enabled ‘core’ to pull this labour wherever it was needed (e.g., low-wage, low-status labour in global cities
  • A historically continuous global market serving capitalism’s demand for exploitable slave-like workers (Cohen, R. 1987; Potts, L. 1990)

Criticisms of the historical-structural model

  • Neglecting agency via historical determinism

Migrants ‘passive pawns in the play of great powers and world processes presided over by the logic of capital accumulation’ (Arango 2004: 27).

Millions of migrants exploited “but others make progress, succeed, and prosper” (King, R, 2012)

Sisters in Time ….

  • The role of the state neglected

Political economy models

Labour-demand + state or supra-state [EU]) make immigration policies – quota and admission systems, regulations of entry, duration of stay, work permits, citizenship rights etc. –  shape the volume, dynamics and geography of international migration.

Hegemonic stability model

Global economic system; political + military power of dominant nations regulates global trade, finance, and international migration.

(Morawska. 2007:4).

Hegemonic (neoliberal) receiver-states regulate global trade, finance, and international migration. (Morawska. 2007:4).

Growing connectivity between migration, globalisation, +  ‘social transformation’ – ‘major shifts in dominant [global] power relationships’ (Castles + Miller 2009:54)

Challenge to hegemony through transnational societies (Castles and Miller, 2009:12)


  • Multiple analytical focus on structure, linkage and process.
  • Derived from general (scientific) systems theory
  • Flexible in scale + ideology
  • Moves beyond a linear, unidirectional, push-pull movement to migration as circular, multi-causal and interdependent (Faist 1997a: 193).
  • Self-feeding systems (like chain migration)
  • Self-regulating systems (correcting themselves in response to a ‘shock’ to the system)
  • Self-modifying system (e.g. shifting to a different destination when blocked).
  • critics of the systems approach pointto its mechanistic, positivist nature and to its neglect of the personal and humanistic angles.


  • Migrant networks: interpersonal ties connecting migrants, non-migrants and former migrants
  • Webs of kinship, friendship and shared origin.
  • Forms of social capital stretched across migrant space
  • By providing information and contacts, they direct migrants to destinations where help is available (accommodation, jobs financial support)

…. information lowers the costs and risks of migration (Massey et al. 1998: 42-43).

Three main types of migrant networks:

  • family and personal networks
  • labour networks
  • illegal migrant networks (Samers (2010: 87-93) .

all networks gendered; women often active in developing and sustaining personal networks (Boyd and Nowak 2012: 83-86).

Samers (2010: 87-93) argues that smuggling and trafficking networks, are halfway between social networks and (criminal) business networks transporting migrants across borders, and subsequently (in the case of trafficking) exploiting them by holding them in a bonded and indebted state, notably sex-work. However,  as we will discuss in the lecture on trafficking, others argue that sex work migration is generally made of up informal networks such as friends, family and colleagues supporting migration and work.

Migration networks theory:

  • contribute to understanding the dynamics of differential migration;
  • help to predict future migration since networks ‘reproduce’ migrants through time;
  • help distinguish between initial causes of migration and its perpetuation + diffusion (Fussell 2012).

New Economics of Labour Migration (NELM)

  • Migration decisions taken within the household (micro level)
  • Migration decisions taken within extended families and wider communal groups (meso level) (Massey et al. 1998: 21).
  • Decision-making includes income diversification and risk reduction; (who goes, where to go, for how long, to do what etc.) (for instance, crop failure due to drought or hurricane, or sudden unemployment)
  • Risk reduction is important in poor sending countries where ‘market failures’ cannot be compensated by savings, insurance or credit (because none of these are available).
  • Diversifying income-earning and livelihood resources into different activities, spreading their labour resources over space and time. Different family members can thus be allocated to different tasks: work/care locally; internal migration; international migration.
  • Remittances from international labour migration to a wage-labour destination can be used to cover risks, or to invest

Criticisms of the NELM model.

  • NELM disappears household/extended family/community conflict/patriarchy
  • NELM is a partial theory, focusing on push not pull? But does any theory need to be total? (Van Hear, 2010:1535)
  • NELM does not address entire household migration
  • NELM shows that returnees may have greater social/economic capital and be viewed as successful. Is return always a sign of success? Is non-return a sign of success? Does successful migration always aid the household/extended family/community?


migrant activities ‘that take place on a recurrent basis across national borders and that require a regular and significant commitment of time by participants… These activities are not limited to economic enterprises [such as sending and receiving remittances, or setting up a business ‘back home’], but include political, cultural and religious activities as well’ (Portes, 1999).

  • Migration is a part of the process of transformation of social structures and institutions, and of the entire global political economy (Castles, 2010:1596)
  • Not only is migration affected by broad dynamics of national and global social change, but it is part and parcel of that change” (King, 2012: 24).
  • Shift from focus on causes of migration to experience of migration influenced by the ‘cultural turn’ in sociology, anthropology, human geography, cultural studies (and interdisciplinary) King, R (2012:25)
  • Transnational approach questions the linear, push-pull, no-return model; builds on theories of migration networks; and poses questions for existing literature on integration + assimilation of migrants in host countries


  • A minority of international migrants live transnational lives or occupy transnational social spaces’ (Faist 2000; Portes, 2003: 876).
  • Changes generated by migration do not alter but buttress the fundamental constitutive elements of the host society (Portes,2010: 1556).

Migration Characteristics

  • Internal vs. international
  • Temporary vs. permanent
  • Regular vs. irregular migration
  • Voluntary vs. forced migration, for instance ‘economic’ migrants vs. refugees.

Three ‘core groups’ temporary labour migrants, settler migrants and refugees have dominated the study of migration

Human trafficking and people smuggling are two forms of (often) labour migration

Blurred categories

Sales (2007: 47) theoretical distinction between refugee migration and ‘voluntary’ economic migration neglects conflicts producing economic devastation which forces people to leave who do not satisfy the requirement of a well-founded fear of persecution under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees

Globalized typologies?

  • Globe-spanning migrations without historical precedent (i.e. Chinese in Italy);
  • Local-scale crossborder shuttle migration,
  • ‘residential tourism’, extending tourist stays to several months;
  • Business visits and work contract migration (Salt 1992).
  • international migrations connected with family reunion and childcare, marriage migration, student migration, retirement migration, high-skilled migration and brain drain,
  • Environmental and climate-change migration,
  • Human trafficking and sexual exploitation

Some theorists argue that new types of migration and international mobility form important elements of the increasingly complex global map of population movements (King 2002; King et al. 2010; Martiniello and Rath 2012). Post-fordism, space-time compression, and the embeddedness of migration and mobility in the forces of globalisation and the New World Order have introduced new mobility forms where none existed before. This may not, however, actually represent a discontinuity with colonial era migration.


  • Castles, S. (2007), ‘Twenty-first Century Migration as a Challenge to Sociology’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 33: 351-71.
  • Dickinson, E, (2016), Globalization and Migration: A World in Motion, Chapters 3 and 4
  • Ritzer, G. and Dean, P (2014) Globalization, A Basic Text, 2nd Edition, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell (Ch. 10)
  • King, R (2012) “Theories and Typologies of Migration: An Overview and Primer”
  • Arango, J. (2004). Theories of International Migration. In D. Joly (ed.), International Migration and the New Millennium. Aldershot: Ashgate,15-36.
  • Boyd, M. and Nowak, J. (2012). Social Networks and International Migration, in Martiniello, M. and Rath, J. (eds.). An Introduction to International Migration Studies. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 77-103.
  • Borjas, G.J. (1989). Economic Theory of International Migration, International Migration Review, 23(3): 457-485.
  • Castles, S. (2010). Understanding Global Migration: A Social Transformation Perspective, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10): 1565-1586.
  • Castles, S. and Miller, M.J. (2009). The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (4th edition).
  • Cohen, R. (1987). The New Helots: Migrants in the International Division
  • of Labour. Aldershot: Avebury.
  • Cohen, R. (1996). Introduction, in Cohen, R. (ed.) Theories of Migration.Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, xi-xvii.
  • Cohen, R. (2008). Global Diasporas: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2nd edition.

Draft Lecture 5 (spring semester). Chinese internal and international migration

Welcome to this week’s two-part lecture on Chinese migration.

Today we will talk about Chinese migration. We will introduce

  • Historical migration patterns: Late Imperial, Republican, Maoist, Reform (and post-reform) eras.
  • Internal and international migration and the relationships between them. This includes the social organisation of migration (state regulation, political economy); structures and cultures of migrant communities; role of voluntary associations; impact of migration on home communities, employment, entrepreneurship, formation of regional + ethnic identities.
  • Scales, modes, gender, class and state regulation of migration


Part one: 16th to 20th century migration networks and patterns

  • From late 16th century Chinese labourers and merchants established settlements in south-east Asia, producing and trading in commodities such as tine, gold, pepper and sugar.
  • 18th century: approx 4000 to 10 000 Chinese labourers per year travelled
    on Chinese vessels bound for Chinese entrepots in Southeast Asia (Trocki, 2005:149)
  • They were members of egalitarian fraternities based on share-owning partnerships founded by the secret societies that ran peasant village networks in southern China. Members held shares in enterprises financed by merchant capital; distribution of shares and profits based on contributions
  • Shareholding companies (kongsi, gonsi) established themselves in Borneo, leadership by merit based democratic election. By 19th century companies had become federations in West Kalimantan; effectively running their areas as mini-state (Heidhus, 2003)

Periods, scale and destinations (international)

Period Scale Destinations Source
1800 to 1850 320,000 Southeast Asia, Americas, Australasia McKeown 2004
1850 to 1900 7,000,000 Southeast Asia, Americas, Australasia McKeown 2004
1849-1882 258,210 Northern America Yung, 1995
1882-1943 300,955 Northern America Yung, 1995

Chinese emigration increased massively in the second half of the 19th century.

Many of these travelled from Guandong province in southern China (adjacent to Hong Kong), where the European and American prescence had contributed to local instabilities of increased taxation and unequal economic and political relations at at time of civil and ethnic unrest, rapid population growth and natural disasters (Lee, 2006:2). These migrations established pathways for later migrations.

Modes of labour migration (18th to 19th centuries)

Labour migration under two kinds of contract; indentured labour and the credit-ticket system

Indentured labour system (dominant up until mid-19th century)

  • Followed the abolition of slavery, substituting Chinese labourers for African slave labour on plantations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • A major innovation in Chinese labour practices in response to European and American colonial interventions in Chinese trading networks.

Credit-ticket system (dominant from mid-century in California, Australia)

  • Individuals secured credit for their passage though personal contacts in their local communities or through supportive merchant houses, often against the security of property. Workers repaid their loans with interest from their earnings over time.
  • Native-place associations (or, ‘district clubs’) mediated between immigrants and creditors in China and Hong Kong. Clubs and shipping companies agreed to refuse transport back to China until debt paid.
  • Role of these associations viewed by immigrants as a mark of trust rather than bondage. For example, Yee Hing brotherhood (Victoria, Australia) ‘cultivated an ethic of equality, camaraderie, mutual assistance and independence for hierarchical constraints of late imperial China” (Fitzgerald, 2007: 66)

 Internal and international migration networks (16-19th centuries)


The appropriate unit of analysis in the history of Chinese migration is the extended family and long-term family migration strategies.

Nineteenth-century patterns of overseas immigration replicated long-patterns of internal immigration, where families spatially deployed their offspring throughout the empire to ensure the survival of the family or to maximise its status and income.(Fitzgerald, 2007: 48)

The movement and settlement of family members throughout China … was accompanied by a nostalgic commemoration of the original site of settlement (the old village, or guxiang) as a ritual site of family unity

Gendered and classed migration and settlement in the 19th century

The first generation of migrants were generally young men.They were …

 … sent abroad to make a living, to send money home in support of other family members and to test the likely reception in the host society to the prospect of permanent settlement by new sub-branches of the family. .. (Fitzgerald, 2007: 48)

In this generation, many young men married women in China, and lived and worked overseas to support their wives and children. Where there was social reproduction in the new country of residence, it often involved foreign women rather than Chinese women.

The promise of economic security that motivated Chinese men to migrate to the US also motivated many Chinese women. The majority of female migrants to the US during the exclusion era (1882-1943) travelled as wives of Chinese merchants or US citizens. Most Chinese women were not able to enter America independently, but had to rely on male relatives to sponsor or support their admission. The exemption categories for the exclusion laws – merchants, teachers, diplomats and travellers – favoured men with some degree of wealth, and generally excluded women.

Patriarchal attitudes in China and overseas also served to restrict independent female emigration.  “Decent” Chinese women were discouraged from migrating (even as dependents of husbands and other male relatives). US immigration officials viewed independent female migration applicants as probable or possible prostitutes and subjected them to harsher scrutiny (Lee, 2003: 93). Chinese women in this situation adopted strategies and offered evidence of their “proper character” or class status (such as fine clothes, and bound feet, both of which were viewed as features of elite status families) (Lee, 2006:17).

Most Chinese migrants were not the poorest of the poor, as thy had to have the means (or ability to repay) the passage fares and associated costs. The expense and difficulty discouraged less wealthy women, in particular,  from migrating. In Hawaii, discriminatory head taxes worked to restrict independent female migration as most could not afford it, outside of paid sexual labour (which was one of the sole means of earning an income sufficient to pay the debt of the passage). So in Hawaii, as in other American destinations, female migration was generally  restricted to the (dependent) wives of wealthy merchants and professionals (McKeown, 2001).  

In Australia after Federation (1901), wives were prohibited from joining husbands. This led to greater male mobility with women raising families in China.

Western state restrictions on Chinese immigration and settlement (late19th-early 20th century)

From the late 19th century onwards, US states, Australia enacted increasingly restictive policies aimed at curtailing (and eventually, preventing) Chinese immigration and settlement.

Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882 (US)

While Exclusion policy (Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882) hampered migration to the States, many Chinese found a way to challenge or circumvent the exclusion. Nonetheless, the vast majority of post-exclusion emigrants went to other destinations.

Period Scale Destinations Source
1849-1882 258,210 Northern America Yung, 1995
1882-1943 300,995 Northern America Yung, 1995

During the period leading up to exclusion in America (1849-1882) there were 258,210 migrants from China to America (Yung, 1995: 22, in Lee, 2006:1).

The east-coast Antipodean colonies enacted anti-Chinese restrictions in the second half of the 19th century, seeking to limit Chinese immigrants to those most menial and badly paid work and, in particular, barring them from the benefits of the gold rush. Queensland enacted the Goldfields Bill 1876 (Qld) and the Chinese Immigration Restriction Act 1877 (Qld). New South Wales enacted the Chinese Immigration Restriction Bill 1897 (NSW).

In the lead up to federation, Western Australia was coerced into giving up its plans to use Chinese labour in its northern plantation as a condition of statehood. The federation legislation titled Commonwealth Immigration Act (1901) gave the White Australia policy legal status. The policy was specifically aimed at excluding Chinese immigrants and maintaining the Australian nation as a British (primarily ex-English) community. It mirrored the American Chinese Exclusion Act (1882).

Ren shan, ren hai 人山人海

Part two: 20th to 21st century migration networks and patterns

Maoist era rural-urban-rural migration

The planned economy and involuntary or ideological migration were key features of internal migration in the Maoist era (1949-1978).

  • large-scale movements of peasants to the cities in 1956–7 with the speed-up of collectivization
  • periodic campaigns to send cadres and intellectuals down to the countryside for ideological remoulding (xiafang)
  • return to the countryside of peasant migrants after 1957 (huixiang)
  • the mammoth campaign forcing high school and university graduates to the countryside (shangshan xiaxiang) between 1968 and 1976 after the Cultural Revolution.
  • routine state unified job allocation system (guojia tongyi gongzuo fenpei, or fenpei for short), part of the economic plan, creating approx 20 million migrants under the hukou [household registration system] (Mallee, Hein: 4).

The hukou system worked to control/regulate the rural/urban populations,  The hukou has been likened to an urban passport. Citizens were required to register in one place of regular residence. Once assigned a residential location, individuals could not elect to change their hukou registration. By 1955, all citizens of China were listed with either an urban or rural household registration. The hukou

  • provided population statistics, identifying individual status
  • was designed to restrict rural-to-urban migration; and agriculture-to-industry labour
  • holding an urban hukou gave a access to food, housing, public health, education, pensions and other basic life necessities provided by the state, and many types of urban jobs. In contrast, the rural population was basically outside the state welfare system.


Guthries suggests that the system restricted migration:

With proper paperwork, in some instances, individuals could legally migrate to urban areas, for example, but few people would choose to do so because it was so difficult to survive outside their hukou registration locations …. (Guthrie, pp. 195-196)

However, other researchers suggest this overlooks the scale of informal mobility (migration outside of the hukuo system).

Hukou system in the current era:

Hukou system continues with some changes. Chinese citizens still generally required live in the place where their “hukou” is kept, but can apply to change it.

  • Chinese state committed to gradual reform, granting urban hukou to migrant workers in small towns and cities, but not megacities (by 2020)
  • Migrant workers in some cities can apply for temporary residence permits which give them some welfare rights for limited periods
  • 260 million migrant workers live in cities but do not enjoy the same benefits as those who hold an urban hukuo (

Internal migration networks and circulation

From the 1970’s onwards, migrants such as those from Zhejian migrated and settled in diverse locations throughout China. Once the migrants had established themselves, they recruited labour and business partners from their home communities, building strong and well organised communities able to survive long period without contact with the home community (Xiang Biao, 1999)


Rapid urbanisation built on migrant labour in the reform era


‘Floating population’

Migrant workers are known as the ‘floating population’ because their temporary status  and settlement is difficult

They often stay in ‘urban villages’ or factory compounds in cities, many working in constructionPicture7

Their labour is the engine of China’s rapid urbanisation

‘Migrant workers’ conditions and quality of life for the millions of migrants were often quite appalling with little in the way of government intervention’ . ajeckstein / June 22, 2011Shenzhen: The “Instant City”


Rapid urbanisation example: Shenzhen
Special Economic Zone

Pre-reform era

Shenzhen was a fishing village area of approx. 30,000 people in 1979

Post-reform era

  • 18-20 million people
  • Approx 4 million have Shenzhen hukou,
  • 8 million have permanent residency,
  • 5-8 million “float” unofficially within the city
  • 90% + immigrant pop.
  • Under the Reform strategy Shenzhen became a special economic zone (SEZ) SEZ have economic  & other laws that are more free-market than normal national laws

Reform and Opening policies; these  policies were first tested in Shenzhen and the other SEZs, Zhuhai, Shantou, and Xiamen and later on, Hainan.

SEZ include free trade zones, export processing zones, free zones, industrial parks/estates, urban enterprise zones. Designed to increase foreign direct investment, develop infrastructure, increase employment

Urbanisation, wealth, inequality

Cities like Shenzhen derive great wealth from IT, industry, services, finance, logistics, property.

Housing in these cities is very expensive: For example, Shenzhen is the 7th most expensive city to buy an apartment in the world, with values having increasing 75% 2015-16

In/equality in the reform era

Less Poverty in Reform era:

Chinese People living on less than one US dollar:

  • 1981: 634 million (63.8% of the population)
  • 2001: 212 million (16.6% of the population)

Global effect: worldwide population living under poverty line nearly halved from 1981-2001; China’s contribution very high, including effects of investment in Africa

However, growing inequality in China… especially between rural areas v urban areas

Measured by the Gini coefficient (which ranges from perfect equality at a value of 0 to absolute inequality at a value of 1), the PRC shifted from 0.22 — one of the most equitable scores ever recorded — in 1978, to 0.469 in 2007, ranking China as one of the world’s most inequitable societies (Goodman and Zang, 2008: 2; citing Adelmen and Sunding, 1987, Xinhua, 17 January 2007).

picture 10

picture 9


picture 9

Contemporary International migration from China

Elite migration



picture 11

picture 12

Documentary: China’s Millionaire Migrants


International  sex work migration: aspirational migration

The TiP 2017 stated that Chinese women and girls were sex-trafficked to up to 19 international destinations, and the US State Department report (2008) had previously indicated that most of the sex-trafficking occurred in Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan. The 2008 TiP report claimed that Chinese female migrants were being “forced into commercial sexual exploitation” after having been lured abroad with through “false promises of legitimate employment” (and, typically, provides no evidence for its allegation).

Chin and Finckenauer’s  (2012) ethnographic work with Chinese sex workers in eight areas in Asia (Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and mainland China) and two cities in the US (Los Angeles and New York)  found Chinese migrants overseas to be involved in voluntary not forced sex work, and to be motivated by the greater income afforded by sex work overseas. Other ethnographic research in international sex-work destinations including Malaysia, Australia and Cameroon corroborate the tendencies identified in Chin and Finckenauer’s work. For example, B.N. Chin’s (2012) ethnographic work with migrant sex workers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, shows that sex work can provide women with the means of earning income for families, for education, and for their own businesses. She argues that it enables a form of cosmopolitanism “from below,” via international travel and language and cultural learning.

Renshaw et al.,s (2015) ethnographic research with Chinese, as well as Thai and Korean migrant sex workers in Sydney and Melbourne similarly found that most report high levels of personal safety and safe sexual health, and none of the migrant sex workers they interviewed reported extortion through debt or identified themselves as victims, and very few claimed to have been trafficked.

Ndjio’s (2009) ethnography with Chinese women and girls doing sex work in Douala,cpd Cameroon, also found that sex work was undertaken voluntarily, either prior to migration (in China) or after working in low paid service-work in Douala. Sex work migration had occurred in two waves, with the first wave in the 1990s working to support the needs of the single male Chinese workers in Cameroon, and the second wave in the 2000s working as part of the increasing development of Chinese-African trade. In both waves, Ndjio suggests, the market for Chinese sex services in Cameroon provided an opportunity for impoverished rural Chinese women.


  • Battistealla, G. (ed.), (2015) Global and Asian Perspectives on International Migration, Switzerland, Springer.
  • Chin, K. and Finckenauer, J.O.  (2012) Selling Sex Overseas: Chinese Women and the Realities of Prostitution and Global Sex Trafficking. NYU Press.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2007), Big White Lie: Chinese Australians in White Australia, Sydney, University of New South Wales.
  • Guthrie, D. China and Globalization: The Social, Economic and Political Transformation of Chinese Society. Taylor and Francis
  • Miao, L. and Wang, H. (eds.), (2017), International Migration of China: Status, Policy and Social Responses to the Globalization of Migration, Singapore, Springer.
  • Kajunus, A. (2015), Chinese Student Migration, Gender and Family, Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Kennedy, P, (2010), Local Lives and Global Transformations: Towards World Society
  • Pieke, N. and Mallee, H. (1999), Internal and International Migration: Chinese Perspectives, Richmond, UK. Curzon.
  • Lee, E. (2003), At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press
  • Lee, E. (2006), “Defying Exclusion: Chinese Immigrants and their Strategies during the Exclusion Era”, in  Chan. S. (ed.), Chinese American Transnationalism: The Flow of People, Resources and Ideas between China and America during the Exclusion Era, Philadelphia, Temple University Press.
  • McKeown, A. (2001),Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change: Peru, Chicago, Hawaii, 1900–1936, Chicago, Chicago University Press
  • McKeown, A. (2004), ‘Global Chinese Migration’, paper presented to the Fifth Conference of the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas, Helsignor, Denmark.
  • Anderson, B. (2006), Imagined Communities, Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism


Draft: Lecture 6 (spring semester). Precarity, Immobility and Indigeneity


Sociological and post/colonial stratifications of im/mobility

Bauman (1998:86) described the stratifications of postmodern consumer society in terms of freedom, or lack of freedom of mobility. The de-bordered (de-territorialised) freedom of mobility belongs to the realms of the world’s ‘tourists’, while the world’s vagabonds suffer stasis and forced or ‘unfree’ mobilities. He later differentiated between individualized and deracinated Western consumers and the ‘wasted lives’ of the rest who suffer forms of stasis (Bauman, 2004). Agency over mobility is dichotomised between those who ‘cannot at will leave their place’ are the ‘ruled’, and those ‘rulers’ able to ‘be elsewhere’ (Bauman 2001: 120).

… postcolonial theorists caution against conceiving of freedom in terms of movement, arguing that freedom of occupancy and place is just as important for indigenous and other colonised people.

Historical legacies

Within the 19th century paradigm of liberalism, an individual who transgressed the norms of labour discipline and thus became a ‘pauper’ could be compelled to enter the workhouse system of forced labour. This form of stasis constituted, as Duvell and Jordan observe, a loss of the rights of mobility and association, and thus a loss of substantive citizenship and the liberal status of moral equality.[1] Such disorderly subjects were guilty of transgressing the liberal principle of property rights inasmuch as their poverty represented both a burden upon the ‘common wealth’ and a refusal of marketised discipline (Duvell and Jordan, 2005:97).

Nodes of immobility

Prisons, like refugee camps and immigration detention facilities, are peculiar institutions that function at one end of a continuum of social and physical mobility and immobility. The prison works to forcibly confine and isolate prisoners from the wider community, and then employs regimented and authoritarian regimes and architecture to further confine their mobility inside the prison.

For example:

  • Aboriginal youths arrested in regional Australia
  • Rejected asylum seekers incarcerated in the UK;
  • English sink estate residents incarcerated for involvement in the informal economy, including drugs

In the first example a typical trajectory involves conflict and poverty and irregular international migration, the conviction of the non-resident for a poverty-related crime, forced stasis through imprisonment and detention, and then forced deportation. This confined territorial circulation is also confined social mobility: the escape from insecurity and poverty promised through emigration or lowers the migrant to the status of criminal and then returns her to increasingly impoverished conditions.

Many of the people in English prisons come from sink estates marked by sustained poverty, and unemployment, often in former manufacturing and mining conurbations. These communities often comprise post-war immigrants from former colonies, new groups of asylum-seeking immigrants, and static British residents. The first two groups experience postcolonial and globalised displacement before entrenched stasis in the estate.  In the latter (English resident) aspect, there is a displacement from the habitas of manufacturing or mining, prior to entrenched stasis and social immobility.[1] In this regard there is a partial similarity with the confinements of Aboriginal people (refugees from the land they still inhabit). These multicultural communities circulate between the welfare, justice and penal systems and the informal economy.

Carceral continuum


Unfree Labour, Precarity and Hyper-precarity

Human trafficking is one form of ‘unfree labour migration’, and vulnerability to this form of exploitation as ‘hyper-precarity’ involving neoliberal globalisation, socio-legal status, and micro-level experiences/circumstances ( Lewis et al., 2015).

O’Connell Davidson (2015) and others critique liberal (ideological) and neo-abolitionist frameworks of trafficking as ‘modern slavery’, which individualise trafficking as the result of individual malign actors and individual incapacity, isolates it from other forms of labour exploitation, and misrepresent contemporary exploitation in terms of an inadequate account of chattel slavery. Instead, Phillips (2011)  views unfree labour as intrinsic to global economic networks, and thus as the result of adverse inclusion within the global economy, even or particularly where that inclusion is predicated on forms of social exclusion (for example, in terms of ‘race’, ethnicity, gender, nationality).

Incommensurability and The right to remain



[1] Charlesworth, 2000. Charlesworth’s study of a working class community in Rotherham shows that the disappearance of traditional work and its way of life changes resident’s sense of place and ontological security so that those reliant on precarious and poorly paid labour come to be seen and experience themselves as ‘aliens among their own species’ (9).



Anderson, Bridget, Us and Them, …

Bauman, Z. ‘Tourists and Vagabonds’, in Globalization: The Human Consequences, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1989

Bauman, Z. (1991) Modernity and the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity

Bauman, Z. (2001) Liquid modernity, Cambridge: Polity.

Bauman, Z. (2004) Wasted lives: modernity and its outcasts, Cambridge: Polity.

Brenner, R. (1999), ‘Globalization as Re-territorialisation: The re-scaling of Urban Governance in the European Union’, Urban Studies, Vol. 36, No 3. Carfax, Taylor and Francis, 1999, pp., 431-451

Blagg, H. (2016), From terra nullius to terra liquidus? Liquid modernity and the Indigenous Other, in Anna Eriksson. Punishing the Other: The social production of immorality revisited, Taylor and Francis.

Charlesworth, C. (2000), A Phenomenology of Working Class Experience, 2000

Davidson O’Connell, J. (2015), Modern Slavery: The Margins of Freedom. Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

Duvell. F and Jordan, B. (2005) Migration: The Boundaries of Equality and Justice, London, Polity Press.

De Georgio, A (2006) Rethinking the Political Economy of Punishment: Perspectives on post-Fordism and Penal Politics, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Gidwani, V. and Kalayanakrishnan, S. (2003) ‘Circular Migration and the Spaces of Cultural Assertion’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 93, No. 1.

Lewis, H. Dwyer, P. Hodkinson, S. and Waite, L. (2015), Precarious Lives: Forced Labour, Exploitation and Asylum, Policy Press, University of Bristol.

Makere S-H, (2013), The New Imperial Order: Indigenous Responses to Globalization, Zed Books

Phillips, N. (2013b) ‘Unfree labour and adverse incorporation in the global economy: comparative perspectives on Brazil and India’, Economy and Society, vol 42, no 2, pp 171-96. Phillips, N. and Mieres,



Lecture 7 (spring semester): Displacement, asylum seekers, refugees.

Welcome to lecture 6 on kinds, causes and responses to forced and coerced displacement

In this lecture we will discuss:

  • Definitions: ‘forced migration’ ‘refugees,’ ‘asylum seekers,’ ‘internally displaced persons’.
  • Asylum seekers & refugees,  integration and exclusion (using the example of the UK).
  • Government, Media & popular Discourses on asylum/refugees.
  • Relationship between “globalisation” and forced migration/refugees?

Definition of Refugees

Refugee: a person residing outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return because of:

“a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (UNHCR 1951) 

and that they are unable to seek state protection (UNHCR 1967).

In order to claim refugee status, people must prove this

The 1951/1967 United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951UNHCR & The UN Refugee Convention 1951 = response to genocide of Jewish diaspora

more than 350 million and together they constitute 5–6% of the world’s population

Definitions: Asylum Seekers & Forced Migrants, Internally Displaced Persons

Asylum seekers

An asylum seeker is someone seeking asylum whose claim to be a refugee has not yet been officially processed

Under the 1951 Convention everybody has the right to claim asylum. No such thing as an ‘illegal asylum seeker’.

Forced migrants

‘a general term that refers to the movements of refugees and internally displaced people (those displaced by conflicts) as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects

Coerced migrants

Falling short of actual force but still compelling people to migrate. For example, famine, economic depression, environmental damage, exclusive/discriminatory law/practice (making it difficult for groups to settle or remain) are some of the conditions that compel people to migrate

Internally Displaced Persons

  •  ‘persons who have been forced to flee their homes suddenly or unexpectedly in large numbers, as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, systematic violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters, and who are within the territory of their own country’ (UN 1992)
  • Sometimes referred to as ‘internal refugees’, these people are in similar need of protection and assistance as refugees but do not have the same legal and institutional support as those who have crossed an international border.

Types of Forced Migration

Conflict-Induced Displacement

People who flee their homes due to armed conflict, generalized violence, persecution on the grounds of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or social group

Development-Induced Displacement

Compelled to move because of policies implemented to enhance ‘development’ (e.g. Large-scale infrastructure projects like dams, roads, airports, ports, mining, deforestation)

Disaster-Induced Displacement

Displaced as a result of natural disasters, environmental change (e.g. Deforestation, desertification, global warming), and  human-made disasters (industrial accidents, radioactivity)  Source: Forced Migration Online

Immigration Concepts: settlement

  • Assimilation – immigrants adapt or ‘assimilate’ into the host society while institutions and the ‘host’ population are not expected to change significantly
  • Segregation -when migrants’ cultural roots and identities are maintained, but there is little interaction with the host community
  • Marginalization -migrants lose their sense of identity and also remain socially excluded from wider society
  • Integration – migrants participate in wider society while maintaining their cultural roots and identities. Berry (1992)

Integration & Assimilation

  • Integration describes a two-way process requiring adaptation by migrants but also by ‘host’ communities and institutions (Castles et al. 2002: 133; Modood 2007: 48).
  • Van Hear (1998: 55): the concept of integration denotes a greater degree of choice on behalf of the migrants rather than them being forced to assimilate.
  • Assimilation: One way process of adaptation: Give up distinctive linguistic, cultural or social characteristics

Multiculturalism and Interculturalism

  • Multiculturalism: Immigrants should be able to participate as equals in all spheres of society without being expected to give up their own culture, religion and language
  • Complex multiculturalism: The Equality Act (2010), puts the claims of the religion and belief on the same level as race, ethnicity and nationality, as well as disability, sexuality, gender, age,
  • Interculturalism emphasises interaction and participation of citizens in a common society, rather than cultural differences and different cultures existing next to each other without necessarily much contact or participative interaction. Interculturalism is therefore equivalent to mutual integration. While multiculturalism boils down to celebrating difference, interculturalism is about understanding each other’s cultures, sharing them and finding common ground on which people can become more integrated. (NewStart Magazine 7 June 2006, cited in Meer & Modood, 2011, 188)

Scale and location of refugee and IDP migration


65.3 million people were forcibly displaced persons in 2015

Total = record high

12.4 million newly displaced by conflict

SOURCE: Report by the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (December 2015)

21.3 million refugees; half of these children; 3.2 million asylum seekers

40.8 million internally displaced people


Half from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia;

Other major countries of origin;

Colombians, Congolese, Iraqis, Nigerians, Sudanese, South Sudanese, and Yemenis.

Developing countries host 86% of the world’s refugees

Top 6 hosting countries

  1. Turkey (2.5 million)
  2. Pakistan (1.6 million)
  3. Lebanon (1.1 million)
  4. Islamic Rep. of Iran (979,400)
  5. Ethiopia (736,100)
  6. Jordan (664,100)

Location of asylum applications

  • Largest asylum applications; Germany 441,900
  • US (172,700), Sweden(156,400),Russian Federation (152,500)
  • 201,400 refugees returned to their country of origin

Push factors for asylum seekers & refugees

  • Repression and/or discrimination of minorities
  • Ethnic conflict and human rights abuse
  • Civil War
  • Numbers of internally displaced people relative to total population
  • Poverty
  • Position on the Human Development Index (HDI)
  • Life Expectancy
  • Population density
  • Adult illiteracy rate
  • Environmental disasters

Source: Castles et al., 2003

Pull factors for asylum seekers & refugees

  • Peace & public order, via democratic institutions & rule of law
  • Strong economies & chance for reasonable living standards
  • Strong welfare and health systems
  • Geographic proximity
  • Cultural affinity, inc. language
  • Presence of people from same culture/ethnicity
  • Ability to draw upon social and cultural capital

Pull factors can be actual or perceived

Asylum seekers/refugees may be pushed, but may still make choices based on pull factors (Robinson, 2002)

Case study 1. British refugee policy: A tradition of tolerance?


Restricting asylum migration

British asylum policy designed to achieve

  • Deterence
  • Prevention
  • Detention
  • Deportation

From Cold War tolerance to postcolonial intolerance

Political/Media Discourse

  • 1950s-1980s: Cold War: West offers refuge from Communist oppression while actual  refugee numbers low
  • 1985+ Politicians begin to legislate to restrict asylum immigration and settlement as refuge number increase
  • Popular media (e.g., Daily Mail) opposed to/campaigns against asylum seekers

negative language repeatedly used to describe asylum seekers and refugees in the popular press:

scrounger, sponger, fraudster, robbing the system’, ‘burden/strain on resources’, ‘illegal working, cheap labour, cash in hand, black economy’, criminal (unspecified or non-violent), ‘criminal violent’, ‘arrested, jailed, guilty’, ‘mob, horde, riot, rampage, disorder’, ‘a threat, a worry, to be feared (terror, but not terrorism). ICAR, 2004, 35

  • political discourse: 1985+

Politicians begin to use terms like ‘disguised economic migrants’, and ‘bogus’ asylum seeker as opposed to ‘genuine refugees’; as ‘illegal’ as opposed to legal; Assumes refugee migration is political not economic

Effects of anti-asylum political discourse

  1. Xenophobia. Government public hostility to asylum seekers simply legitimates xenophobic sentiments. It encourages anti-asylum mobilisation and provides the public with cues for seeing problems in a distorted and exaggerated way’. Paul Statham 2003
  2. Criminalisation. Shift from protecting refugees to criminalising asylum migration. Governments increasingly offer protection against ‘traffickers/smugglers’ instead of refuge and settlement
  3. Stagnation. People are stuck in camps. Spontaneous arrivals represented and treated as ‘queue jumpers’ (they are instead required to wait in camps for selection, which may take many years or just not eventuate).
  4. Danger. Increasingly hazardous journeys. 3,740 lives had been lost by Oct 25, 2016 in the Mediterranean, just short of the 3,771 reported for the whole of 2015 (UNHCR, 2016)
  5. Marginalisation. Destitution for rejected asyslum seekers and asylum applicants in country.



  • 20th century has been referred to as the ‘age of the refugee’ (Steiner 1970)
  • ‘Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an escalation in the number armed conflicts around the world … There has been a large increase in the number of refugees during this period as displacement has increasingly become a strategic tactic often used by all sides in the conflict’ (Forced Migration Online)
  • Post WWII: Age of global rights norms, instruments, institutions: refuge and protection as a fundamental human right

Refugees: Globalization’s “waste” products

Displaced persons as ‘waste products of globalization’ (Zygmunt Bauman, 2004)

Tribal wars, massacres, conflict between proliferating ‘guerrilla armies’ absorb and annihilate the ‘population surplus’ (the young, unemployable at home and without prospects)

‘Perhaps the sole thriving industry of the ‘developing countries’ is the mass production of refugees the ever more prolific products of that industry which the British  Prime Minister proposes to unload ‘near their home countries’, in permanently temporary camps … (dubbed ‘safe havens’) … The aim is to keep ‘local’ problems local (2004: 73)

‘The numbers of homeless and stateless victims of globalization grow too fast for the designation and construction of camps to keep up’ (2004: 75)

Refugees & Globalisation concepts

Networks: smuggling networks

Flows; increasing flows of displaced people

World systems theory: related to inequality

Risk: perceived as a risk to welfare, economy, culture, identity & belonging, law & order, sovereignty; risk for refugees (hardship, death, destitution, detention)

Borders: related to ‘debordering’ and ‘rebordering’

Scapes; ideoscapes, media scapes via IT

Interconnectedness; world of conflict & poverty migrates, modern forms of transport

Globalism: norms, institutions, structures


  • Forced Migration Online ‘What is Forced Migration?’, Available at:
  • Castles S., et al., (2003) States of Cnflict: Causes and Patterns of Forced Migration to the EU and Policy Responses, London, IPPR
  • Sales, R. (2002). “The deserving and the undeserving? Refugees, asylum seekers and welfare in Britain.” Critical Social Policy 22(3), pp. 456-478.
  • Anderson, Claire, Us and Them:
  • Bloch, A. and L. Schuster. 2002. Asylum and Welfare: contemporary debates. Critical Social Policy. 22(3), pp.393-414.
  • Bloch. A. (2002) The Migration and Settlement of Refugees in Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Bauman, Z. (2004) Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts, Oxford: Polity Press.
  • Cohen, R. and Kennedy, P. (2007) Global Sociology, 2nd edition, Basingstoke: Macmillan, Ch. 10, pp.249-252
  • Burnett, J. et al. (2010) State Sponsored Cruelty: Children in Immigration Detention. London: Medical Justice
  • Castles, S. et al. (2002) Integration: Mapping the Field. Home Office Online Report 29/03. London: Home Office
  • Jordan, B. and Duvell, F. 2003. Migration: The Boundaries of Equality and Justice. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Castles, S. and Miller, M. 2003. The Age of Migration: International Movements in the Modern World. 3rd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Da Lomba, S. (2010) Legal Status and Refugee Integration: a UK Perspective, Journal of Refugee Studies, 23 (4): 415-436.
  • Darling, J. 2009. ‘Becoming bare life: asylum, hospitality, and the politics
  • of encampment’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 27, 649-665.
  • Dwyer, P. and D. Brown (2005) Meeting Basic Needs? Forced Migrants and Welfare. Social Policy & Society. 4 (4), pp. 269-380.
  • Dwyer, P. and Brown, D. (2008). “Accommodating ‘others’? Housing dispersed, forced migrants in the UK.” Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 30(3),pp. 203-218.
  • Knepper, P. 2007. British Jews and the racialisation of crime in the age of empire. British Journal of Criminology. 47, pp. 61-79. O’Neill, M. (2010) Asylum, Migration and Community. Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Spencer, S. (2011) The Migration Debate. Bristol: Policy Press
  • Walters, W. 2004. Secure borders, safe haven, domopolitics. Citizenship Studies. 8(3), 237-60.

Draft: Lecture 8 (spring semester). Penal and migratory immobilities

Prisons, like refugee camps and immigration detention facilities, are peculiar institutions that function at one end of a continuum of social and physical mobility and immobility. The prison works to forcibly confine and isolate prisoners from the wider community, and then employs regimented and authoritarian regimes and architecture to further confine their mobility inside the prison.



For example:

  • Aboriginal youths arrested in regional Australia
  • Rejected asylum seekers incarcerated in the UK;
  • English sink estate residents incarcerated for involvement in the informal economy, including drugs


In the first example a typical trajectory involves conflict and poverty and irregular international migration, the conviction of the non-resident for a poverty-related crime, forced stasis through imprisonment and detention, and then forced deportation. This confined territorial circulation is also confined social mobility: the escape from insecurity and poverty promised through emigration or lowers the migrant to the status of criminal and then returns her to increasingly impoverished conditions.

Many of the people in English prisons come from sink estates marked by sustained poverty, and unemployment, often in former manufacturing and mining conurbations. These communities often comprise post-war immigrants from former colonies, new groups of asylum-seeking immigrants, and static British residents. The first two groups experience postcolonial and globalised displacement before entrenched stasis in the estate.  In the latter (English resident) aspect, there is a displacement from the habitas of manufacturing or mining, prior to entrenched stasis and social immobility.[1] In this regard there is a partial similarity with the confinements of Aboriginal people (refugees from the land they still inhabit). These multicultural communities circulate between the welfare, justice and penal systems and the informal economy.


[1] Simon Charlesworth, A Phenomenology of Working Class Experience, 2000. Charlesworth’s study of a working class community in Rotherham shows that the disappearance of traditional work and its way of life changes resident’s sense of place and ontological security so that those reliant on precarious and poorly paid labour come to be seen and experience themselves as ‘aliens among their own species’ 9.

Draft: Lecture 9 (spring semester). Elite, professional and investment migration



Duvell. F and Jordan, B. (2005) Migration: The Boundaries of Equality and Justice, London, Polity Press.

Radhakrishnan, S. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class, Duke University Press, chapter 1


Draft. Lecture 10 (spring semester). Migration, Gender and Class.



Ehrenreich, B. And Hochschild, A. (eds) (2002) Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Henry Holt.

Jacka, T. (2005), “Between “Rural Idiocy” and “Urban Modernity””, chapter one, Rural Women in Urban China, Gender, Migration and Social Change, Routledge

Binnie, J. (2004) The Globalization of Sexuality, London: Sage.

Naples, N. And Desai, M. (eds.) (2002) Women’s Activism and Globalization: Linking Local Struggles and Transnational Politics. New York: Routledge.

Friese, M. (1995) ‘East European women as domestics in western Europe’, Journal of Area Studies, 6, 194-202

Okin, S. M. (1999). “Is Multiculturalism bad for Women?” In: J. Cohen and M. Howard, eds. Is Multiculturalism bad for Women, Princeton NJ: University of Princeton Press

Kofman, Eleonore. (1999), “Female ‘Birds of Passage’ a Decade Later: Gender and Immigration in the European Union”, International Migration Review, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 269-299.

Phillips, A. “When culture means gender: issues of cultural defence in the English Courts,” Modern law review (2003), 66 (4), pp 510-531,

Phillips, A.(2007) Multiculturalism without Culture. Princeton University Press: Princeton.

Pollitt, K. (1999). “Whose Culture?” in J. Cohen and M. Howard, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

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