Dealing with Deportability: Deportation Laws and the Political Personhood of Temporary Migrant Workers in Singapore

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Abstract

By severely constraining the political personhood of temporary migrant workers, states' use of deportation laws seeks to curb agitation among these workers. Despite this, various episodes of unrest have been witnessed in both liberal and illiberal regimes across Asia. Drawing on a case study of Bangladeshi migrant construction workers in Singapore, this paper examines the development of migrant labour politics as deportation laws, and their enforcement, construct these workers as use-And-discard economic subjects. Data for the paper are drawn from multi-level sources-government, industry, media, and non-governmental organization (NGO) reports; interviews with key actors; and a participant observation stint in a construction firm-collected between 2010 and 2014. The paper argues that, rather than solely constraining, deportability serves as a constituent of certain forms of tactical worker contestations in the workplace. Specifically, under different workplace conditions, deportability can translate into differing forms of worker tactics, ranging from accommodation to confrontation and desertion. The outcomes of these strategies, in turn, have significant repercussions for the ways in which civil society groups and state-Actors, respectively, challenge and reconfigure the political personhood of temporary migrant workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-284
Number of pages18
JournalAsian Journal of Law and Society
Volume2
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes

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