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Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities

Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities: Ethnographies of Human Mobilities in Asia

Barak Kalir
Malini Sur
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities
    Book Description:

    Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities examines how legality and other sources of authority intersect in the regulation of human mobility. The book focuses on the ethnographic exploration of the experiences and views of mobile subjects in the vast and rapidly changing continent of Asia. The contributors analyze tensions between the letter of the law and social legitimation, territorial boundaries and commodity flows, state practices and migrant subjectivities, and labour brokerage and national and international organizations. This volume offers key insights for students of globalization and transnationality and policy relevance for development practitioners, governments, and NGOs.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1587-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. List of Tables, Maps, Figures and Photographs
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-10)
    Barak Kalir and Malini Sur
  5. Introduction Mobile Practices and Regimes of Permissiveness
    (pp. 11-26)
    Barak Kalir, Malini Sur and Willem van Schendel

    This is a book about transnational mobile practices. The contributors share a common concern: to push social analysis beyond received notions of legality and illegality and to think outside the box of state authority versus criminal behaviour. In doing so, we join a growing group of social scientists searching for new ways to understand the relationship between human behaviour and multiple authorities. For us, simple dichotomies will not do; instead, we seek a more finely grained framework of interpretion. The chapters that follow contain new ideas, based on close empirical observation in various societies across the vast continent of Asia....

  6. 1 Illegality Rules Chinese Migrant Workers Caught Up in the Illegal but Licit Operations of Labour Migration Regimes
    (pp. 27-54)
    Barak Kalir

    This chapter explores the immigration of Chinese migrant workers to Israel in light of the ‘illegal but licit’ analytical framework as advanced by Van Schendel and Abraham (2005). The ‘illegal but licit’ analytical framework conceptualises a useful distinction between the il/legal and the il/licit, in order to enable us to grasp better, and talk about, what really happens on the ground – in, across and under the formal authority of nation-states. The ‘illegal but licit’ framework broadens and forces our analysis to include flows and actions that are located in a zone where a mismatch exists between the state’s formal political...

  7. 2 Contesting the State of Exception in the Afghan-Pakistani Marchlands
    (pp. 55-74)
    Oskar Verkaaik, Sarfraz Khan and Samina Rehman

    The so-calledtribal areasin northwest Pakistan are in the international limelight due to its continuing significance for the political situation in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978, these borderlands have been intrinsically connected to the war in Afghanistan. Millions of refugees have found a place to stay here during the last three decades. The Afghan resistance known as themujahideenlargely operated from these areas – both Al Qaeda and the Taliban as well as lesser-knownjihadigroups were formed and trained from here, and it is widely believed that Al Qaeda leaders...

  8. 3 ‘Looking for a Life’ Rohingya Refugee Migration in the Post-Imperial Age
    (pp. 75-90)
    Diana Wong and Tan Pok Suan

    A refugee, according to Hannah Arendt, was a person who had no right to rights. Her statement was based on her own experience during the Nazi period of being stripped of German citizenship because she was a Jew. This definition of a refugee no longer holds true. In no small measure due to the lessons learned from that experience, a refugee rights regime – flawed and inadequate though it may be – has been established both at the transnational level and, in many Western liberal states, at the national level. This has enabled and legitimised substantial refugee flows and resettlements in the...

  9. 4 Smuggling Cultures in the Indonesia-Singapore Borderlands
    (pp. 91-108)
    Michele Ford and Lenore Lyons

    Borders are lucrative zones of exchange and trade, much of it clandestine. Smuggling, by definition, ‘depends on the presence of a border, and on what the state declares can be legally imported or exported’ (Donnan & Wilson 1999: 101), and while free trade zones and growth triangles welcome the free movement of goods and services, border regions can also become heightened areas of state control that provide an environment in which smuggling thrives. Donnan and Wilson (1999: 88) argue that acts of smuggling are a form of subversion or resistance to the existence of the border, and therefore the state....

  10. 5 Trade, Transnationalism and Ethnic Infighting Borders of Authority in Northeast Borneo
    (pp. 109-126)
    Laurens Bakker and Jay Crain

    Nunukan, the northernmost district of the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, is literally on the outskirts of the Indonesian state. Its long and narrow territory stretches from the Sulawesi Strait in the east to the rugged mountainous interior of the highland plateaus of northern Borneo’s interior in the west. The district shares a very long international border with the Malaysian states of Sabah (to the north) and Sarawak (to the west). Nunukan has a long history of trading with close and more remote partners, a market that was rather hampered by the incorporation of the area first into the Dutch East...

  11. 6 Bamboo Baskets and Barricades Gendered Landscapes at the India-Bangladesh border
    (pp. 127-150)
    Malini Sur

    My contribution argues for plural engagements with undocumented border crossings. I posit that trans-border mobilities, especially in regions where borders divide similar societies, are located at the intersection of sovereign violence and social legitimacies. This paper explores such intersections by following bodies in motion, and bodies that are selectively intercepted and deported at the heavily patrolled and militarised India-Bangladesh border. I advance that borders have lethal yet fluid dispositions. The aggressive policing of borders coexists with local and trans-border legitimacies that accommodate undocumented border crossings.

    Illustrations from the highly secured United States border with Mexico expose how border controls enhance...

  12. 7 Moving between Kerala and Dubai Women Domestic Workers, State Actors and the Misrecognition of Problems
    (pp. 151-168)
    Bindhulakshmi Pattadath and Annelies Moors

    Mobility across international borders as well as state attempts to curtail this are facts of life for women such as Seena, Suja, Mariyam and Hussaiba¹ who have worked for up to twenty years as foreign domestic workers in the Gulf.² They are part and parcel of the large number of impoverished women from Kerala who leave their native lands and arrive in Dubai. Some had first worked elsewhere – Hussaiba in Saudi Arabia, Seena in Oman, and Mariyam in Oman, Bahrain and Ajman (another Emirate) – but at a certain moment they all had come to Dubai, where they joined the large...

  13. 8 Emigration of Female Domestic Workers from Kerala Gender, State Policy and the Politics of Movement
    (pp. 169-188)
    Praveena Kodoth and V.J. Varghese

    In January 2006, at a workshop on Social Protection of Migrant Workers at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Trivandrum, a senior scholar of international migration recommended a total ban on the movement of women domestic workers to the Gulf region, citing extremely harsh working conditions. This was in accordance with the strong sentiment at the workshop that the severe exploitation of women migrant domestic workers warranted measures to control their movement. Puzzled by this course of reasoning, a middle-aged woman – a teacher from a local college – pointed out that women emigrate as domestic workers because they need work...

  14. 9 Mainland Chinese Migrants in Taiwan, 1895-1945 The Drawbacks of Being Legal
    (pp. 189-206)
    Leo Douw

    In Taiwan, a population of migrant workers from mainland China came into being during the period when the Japanese colonial regime was in power, from 1895 to 1945. In the 1930s, their numbers rose to at least 60,000. These migrants worked and lived in the rapidly developing big cities of Taiwan, where they supplemented the labour market. Before the Japanese occupied the island, migrants from mainland China had worked and settled continually in Taiwan over a period of more than two centuries. This had never given rise to problems concerning their legal status, because they remained subjects of the Chinese...

  15. 10 ‘Playing Edge Ball’ Transnational Migration Brokerage in China
    (pp. 207-228)
    Li Minghuan

    In Chinese, ‘playing edge ball’ is a popular saying meaning an activity intended to challenge the existing rules and avoid punishment. Originally, ‘edge ball’ was a term used in table tennis. If the on-coming ball hit only the edge of the tabletop, it would be almost impossible for the receiver to return the ball; thus, the player who successfully hit the edge ball would win the point. It is a great challenge to both hit and receive an edge ball. Therefore the term ‘playing edge ball’ is often used to connote people who try to gain profit at the edge...

  16. Epilogue Irregular Mobilities and Disjunctive Moralities
    (pp. 229-240)
    Hastings Donnan

    This stimulating set of essays is the result of a long-term comparative project that suggests new ways of conceptualising and studying empirically the key terms of its focus: transnational movement, borders, states and the boundaries of legality and the legitimate. Drawing on the literature from a wide range of disciplines, the contributors invite us to reflect on transnational flows and processes, arguing for an ethnographically grounded perspective and engaging critically with approaches that over-determine the separation between society and the state. At the core of their persuasive critique is a fourfold matrix that maps the cross-cutting relationships among different forms...

  17. About the Editors and Contributors
    (pp. 241-246)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-260)
  19. Index
    (pp. 261-264)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-267)