Gender, Migrations and Racialisation in Southeast Asia
Conveners: Julien Debonneville (University of Geneva, Switzerland), Asuncion Fresnoza-Flot (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium), Gwenola Ricordeau (University of Lille 1, France)
Over the last decades, migration has progressively become one major research area in human sciences. In this field, a large number of studies have been devoted to Southeast Asia where migration plays a central role, especially labour migrations. Nowadays, Southeast Asia is one of the main exporters of skilled labour in the world, lead by the Philippines and Indonesia. The dynamic movements of people within, across or from this particular region have increased contacts among different ethno-linguistic and socio-economic groups, raising the issues of gender and racialisation during the migration process.
Labour migrations were long dominated by fluxes going from the global "South" to the "North", but recently "South" - "South" migratory flows have also started to take off. The period from the 1970s to the 1990s witnessed the rise of new destination regions such as the Middle East (following the oil boom) and Southeast Asia (with the industrial growth of the so-called "Asian Dragons": South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan). Southeast Asia has become diversified in regards to migrations: some countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia have turned themselves into "labour broker countries", others such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan have become "labour import countries", while some like Malaysia and, to a lesser extent, Thailand combine these two characteristics.
The specificity of Southeast Asian region is also linked to different patterns of "migration career", most of which are economically motivated. Some professions seem particularly dominant: there is a major flow of "unskilled workers" to become domestic workers, caregivers, factory workers, waiters, bartenders, entertainers, prostitutes, but also "skilled workers" such as nurses, seafarers and engineers. These professions underline a feminisation of migration that started between the 1980s and the 1990s, pointing out how gender power relations and the global sexual division of labour affect migrations and social mobility.
While there has been extensive research focusing on gender and migrations, little research has been carried out on how migrations are related to racialisation processes and racial division of labour. In the Middle East, for example, Filipino and Indian migrants work as nurses alongside Indonesian and Sri Lankan domestic workers. Such racial division of labour is often based on gendered and racial stereotypes that frame the labour market incorporation of migrants. For instance, scholars have shown how Filipino women are pictured as "docile", "smiling", "naturally suited carers", which increases their attractiveness as caregivers or domestic workers. In other cases, Filipino and Thai women are described as "beautiful", "docile" and "sexy", making them potential wives or partners for certain men of the global North. Clearly, such racial and gendered representations affect the migration careers and strategies of migrants.
This panel aims to welcome abstracts focusing on how racialisation is framing migration. "Race" is understood here as naturalised social constructions which intersect with other power relations such as "sex", "class", "age" that invent the /Other/. Papers based on qualitative or quantitative methods and addressing one or more of the following questions are particularly encouraged: How do racialisation intersects with migrations in Southeast Asia? How are supposed and imagined differences (re)produced during the migration process (re)creating the /Other/? How does a particular migrant group becomes constructed as /Other/? In what way are racial representations of migrants coming from Southeast Asia constructed and diffused? What role(s) do institutions play regarding this racialisation? How do migrants negotiate and resist these racial representations and /otherness/?
Contact: Julien Debonneville Julien.firstname.lastname@example.org