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Title: Gendering migration in Asia : a case study of Chinese female migrant workers in Singapore
Authors: Yang, Wei
Keywords: Social sciences::Sociology
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Yang, W. (2021). Gendering migration in Asia : a case study of Chinese female migrant workers in Singapore. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between August 2016 and June 2019 in Singapore, this thesis provides a detailed account of the situations and everyday experiences of low-wage Chinese female migrant workers employed in the manufacturing and service sectors in Singapore. It basically examines how structural and institutional forces, especially the migrant labour regime of Singapore, interact with gender to constitute the migrant women’s agency in particular ways, and how the women strategically negotiate the structural constraints in which they are subordinated in the process of migration. The thesis consists of seven chapters with a conclusion. Apart from the introduction chapter, the thesis can be divided into two parts. Part I (Chapter 2-4) primarily examines the multifaceted factors that promote, facilitate and condition women’s labour migration from China to Singapore, including the macro-level structural factors such as transnational production regime, migrant labour regime in Singapore, and family regime in China, the meso-level institutional factors such as migration infrastructure and migrants’ social networks, as well as the micro-level factors such as women’s migration motives. These chapters also establish the contexts for the analysis of Part II. Part II (Chapter 5-7) is mainly focused on how migrant women exercise their agency to negotiate their everyday migrant lives. Especially, it investigates how they pursue intimacy and mobility in the journey of migration, including temporary extramarital cohabitation practices, self-development, and marriage migration. The conclusion chapter summarizes the significance of this study and calls for more scholarly attention to this understudied group of migrant women. The thesis argues that while the migrant women are agentic subjects who strategically negotiate restrictive migrant labour regime and further their own interests, their entrepreneurial practices are often instrumentalized by themselves as a means to achieve life goals that are deeply rooted in traditional gender norms and family values. Thus, they themselves are active participants in the reproduction of the very structures in which they are subordinated. In particular, it puts forwards the notions of demarcated and demarcating agency to suggest the particular ways in which structural forces and individual agency are intertwined with each other in this specific case. By showing the contradictory effects of women’s proactive enactment of agency on existing gender hierarchy and capitalist systems, this thesis moves beyond the dichotomy of resistance and subordination in conceptualizing migrant women’s agency, but instead highlights the intertwining relations between structure and agency as well as between exploitation and gender oppression. It deepens our understanding of gendered agency and sexuality, and challenges the view of migration as an emancipatory process for women. It also points out that migrant workers’ entrepreneurial pursuit of individual gains often hinders the creation of collective action against the unequal migrant labour regimes. Furthermore, by presenting the lives of migrant workers who are engaged in manufacturing and service jobs in Singapore and their strategies to negotiate transnational social mobility, the thesis subverts the highly gendered ways in which low-wage migrant women have been widely portrayed in the migration literature, and departs from the growing body of research on the exclusionary conditions of low-wage migration in Asia. In particular, it demonstrates how the specific circumstances in which the Chinese migrant women workers are situated differentiate their experiences from those of other low-wage migrant groups in Singapore and create certain possibilities for them to pursue lives and activities in their private sphere. This is not only related to the kind of work that they do, but also has to do with gender, ethnicity and nationality.
DOI: 10.32657/10356/152854
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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