The Everyday Experiences and Practices of Asian Migrants

Title: 1164 | The Everyday Experiences and Practices of Asian Migrants
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: Geography
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Man Xu, University of Toronto, Canada (presenter)
Bemen Wong, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia (presenter)
Yeong-Hyun Kim, Ohio University, United States (organizer, presenter, chair)
Ljiljana Marković, University of Belgrade, Serbia (presenter)
Biljana Djorić Francuski, University of Belgrade, Serbia (presenter)
Xiaoqing Liu, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)


According to the latest ILO global estimates (2017), there are 258 million international migrants worldwide, and more than 41 percent of them were born in Asia. It is widely documented that people cross borders for a variety of reasons, and that they experience migration in a number of different ways. This panel seeks to examine the everyday experiences and practices of Asian migrants through five case studies: Chinese entrepreneurs in Iran, Indonesian plantation workers in Malaysia, Filipino manufacturing workers in South Korea, South Asian colonial migrants in the UK, and Chinese return migrants in South China. These case studies should illustrate and explain the interplay between the agency of individual Asian migrants and larger historical, structural forces.

Panel Abstracts:
Explaining Chinese Independent Migration to Iran: Dynamic Migration Trajectories and Flexible Adaptation
Iran is one of the largest recipients of Chinese investment and exports in the Middle East. The growing attention to China’s activities in the Global South in public and academic debate has focused largely on Chinese state-owned enterprises’ activities and their impact on the receiving countries in the Global South. However, Chinese independent migrants (CIM), especially Chinese Muslim (Hui) have been the main actor that develops and sustains the transnational economic ties between the two countries. Based on fieldwork in Tehran, Iran and Yiwu, China, my research examines the experiences of Chinese independent migrants who are involved in entrepreneurial activities with Iran. I demonstrate how diverse transnational networks established over long historical period have enabled heterogeneous migration pathways from China to Iran, especially the migration of Chinese Muslims to Iran. Moreover, I shed light on a unique aspect of migrant adaptation in the south-south context – the centrality of informality to the transnational socio-economic life of Chinese migrants. I examine how Chinese migrants to Iran engage with both formal institutions and informal networks to negotiate business and everyday activities transnationally. In particular, I draw attention to the ways in which the historically constructed, paradoxical position of Chinese Muslims - as potential middleman in transnational trade and marginalized minority at home - shape their social networks, adaptation strategies and transnational entrepreneurship.

Indonesian Migrants and Community Learning Centres in Oil Palm Plantations: A Case Study of Miri, Sarawak
Sarawak is the biggest state in Malaysia with an area of 124,450 km2 and a total population of 2.77 million in 2017 which is the fourth largest state in terms of population. However, Sarawak is having a problem of recruiting locals in several industries in the state. As reported in Borneo Post Online (2015), the former Land Development Minister of Sarawak explained that the government has tried all best to recruit locals to work in oil palm plantation but there is no taker. As affirmed by the Malaysia Palm Oil Board, it is difficult to recruit Malaysians in oil palm plantations. Added by the Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Economy, the oil palm industry in Sarawak is losing RM1 billion annually due to uncollected fresh fruit bunches (FFBs). Thus, the government has to switch its focus to external sources, which are foreign labourers. Due to heavily depended on Indonesian labourers, as many as 30,000 Indonesian children are excluded from formal education in Sabah and Sarawak. Thus, upon mutual agreement between the Indonesian government and the Sarawak State Government, Community Learning Centres (CLCs) have been set up by the owner of plantations. This study is intended to examine the migration patterns, challenges and impacts of Indonesian labourers, who are working in an oil palm plantation, in Sarawak. Besides, the CLCs which located in the oil palm plantation of Sarawak will be examined in terms of its influences in recruiting Indonesian workers.

Spatial Disciplining of Male Migrant Manufacturing Workers in South Korea
Much academic attention has been paid to the everyday experiences and practices of female migrant workers in destination countries, but comparatively little research has been done on those of male migrants. This paper examines the spatial exclusion and marginalization of male migrant manufacturing workers in South Korea. The government-run Employment Permit System (EPS) brings in mostly male migrants (over 90 percent) to relive labor shortages in declining heavy industries and houses them on-site in factory dormitories to ensure tight control over their lives. Employers, vying for higher EPS quotas, actively participate in facilitating the state’s spatial control of male migrant manufacturing workers by forcing their migrant employees not to be seen in public space. Through the narratives and experiences of Filipino migrants, the paper demonstrates that the imposed spatial confinement to the factory lot and its industrial surroundings is central to their everyday experiences of living as low-skilled young male migrant workers in South Korea. While being kept inside during the working week, they also explore and engage in “out-of-factory” activities on weekends. The findings of this paper highlight the gendered and spatial aspects of state control over migrant labor in East Asia and across the world, where young, male, minority migrants are recruited to fill labor needs in manufacturing.

At the Crossroad of Cultures: British Asian Migrants
The high rate of ethnic diversity in the United Kingdom – which is, after Germany and France, the third European country both by the number of immigrants (5.5 million) and their ratio to the overall number of inhabitants (9%) – has been caused by several factors. The largest number of migrants settling permanently in the UK came from the former colonies of the British Empire, mostly those in South Asia, who had no problem to enter and make their new home in that country since they had British passports, as they were the so-called Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC). South Asian influence on British culture has been so significant that even the most traditional and quintessential British food – fish and chips – has been replaced by dishes such as curry or chicken tikka masala which, according to the former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is now “Britain's true national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences” (The Guardian, 19 April 2001). The purpose of this paper is to examine these influences, which have been reflected not only on the superficial level of British culture, such as food, but also on a much deeper level – leading the UK from being monocultural via multiculturalism and interculturalism, towards transculturalism, as well as to investigate some of the issues arising at the crossroad of these cultures.

A Case Study of Return Migration from Southeast Asia to South China in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
During the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, there was an emerging number of people in South China migrating to Southeast Asia and constructing returned-overseas Chinese architecture in South China. This article adopts a case study of a significant mansion, Chen Cihong’s Residence, in Chaoshan, South China, to explore the encounters among western, eastern, and Southeast Asian elements for the returned overseas Chinese community. Existing literature focuses on the layout of the architecture in the construction history of Chaoshan, ignoring the importance of Chinese diasporic history and returned-overseas Chinese in the crossroad for migrants of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This paper will focus on the Chinese diasporic history between South China and Southeast Asia by researching on the case study of Chen’s Residence in terms of the history of the community and space. Therefore, under the Sino-western exchange context from 1860 to the end of the Qing period, this article will address the issue of the Chinese diaspora, general patterns of returned-overseas Chinese architecture in the Chaoshan region, and complex relationships between returned-overseas Chinese architecture in Chaoshan and Southeast Asia. This paper argues that these complex relationships between returned-overseas Chinese architecture in Chaoshan and Southeast Asia reflect the influences of Chinese philosophy, Chinese diasporic cultural identities, and sociocultural contexts of Southeast Asia. Finally, this paper also wants to engage in discussions with other articles about “Asian Migration” in this session

This panel is on Thursday - Session 02 - Room 1

Go to Room 1