The Migration Industry: Facilitators and Brokerage in Asia
Date : 01 Jun 2017 - 02 Jun 2017
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8, Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ Kent Ridge Campus
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The migration industry signals both the privatization of migration infrastructures and the increasingly formalized involvement of brokers and agents in migration. It comes as no surprise that the “migrant-broker” or agent has emerged as an important player to understand the dynamics involved in migrant trajectories. While the work of migrants as informal brokers persists – mainly based on the observation that low-skilled migrants pay a considerable price for their services – it has also been observed that without their involvement migration would often simply not be possible. At the same time, an increasing number of brokers operate within formalized networks and/or as part of professional organizations. As such we argue that an understanding of migrant brokers needs to go beyond kinship ties and clientelism and incorporate an understanding of how such networks and organizations operate within the transnational sphere of migration flows. Our aim is to zoom into mediation processes, institutional practice, and multiple activities of “micro-brokerage” involved in the facilitation of migration as well as the infrastructural support of the migration industry.

We are looking for critically and empirically engaged work in the broadly defined topic of migration brokerage, with a specific focus on the role, knowledge practice, and activities of agents, brokers and other types of facilitators. Papers within the context of Asia or dealing with Asian migrants in other parts of the world are welcome. We invite proposals that explore one or more of the following lines of inquiry:

  • Knowledge Practice: Who are these actors involved in the process of facilitating migration? What types of narratives and rationales influence their practices of knowledge construction and utilization? What forms of knowledge and data become critical to everyday practices of brokering? Is their knowledge of brokerage used instrumentally, symbolically or strategically? How do these actors and institutions engaged in brokerage manage commercial uncertainties of migration recruitment and placement?
  • Bureaucratic and Documentation Regime: How does bureaucratic documentation contribute to specific practices of brokerage within the migration industry? What brokerage artifacts, forms, documents and paperwork account for the increasing commercialization of the mediation process in migration? How are highly specific rules and regulations and their concomitant processes and demands of documentation productive in protecting the rights and safety of migrants? Are there also negative consequences for migrants? And how does the interplay of such demands and associated (social, financial) consequences find itself reproduced in the actual functioning of the industry itself?
  • Socialization and Organizations: If the migration industry is embedded in the commercialization of international migration and through mediation, it is also fundamentally a social process of becoming rather than a state of being or knowing. If so, what does this process look like in practice and what are the consequences for migrants across Asia? What organizations make up the migration industry as a whole? How do organizational approaches to brokering complement, overlap with, and differ from practices that individual and independently operating brokers are engaged in?
  • Mobility and Finance Infrastructure: In order to keep the flow of millions of migrant workers across Asia in motion, a vast and efficient immobile infrastructure is necessary both in receiving and sending countries. The most visible faces of this infrastructure are brokers and agents, but what other businesses are involved in the operation of the large migration industry machinery? What costs do migrants and brokers have to incur in order to make migration possible?

 

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CONVENORS

Dr Tina Shrestha
Asia Research Institute, NUS
E | aristina@nus.edu.sg

Dr Michiel Baas
Asia Research Institute, NUS
E | arimba@nus.edu.sg

Dr Bernardo Brown
Asia Research Institute, NUS
E | aribeb@nus.edu.sg

Prof Brenda S.A. Yeoh
Asia Research Institute & Department of Geography, NUS
E | geoysa@nus.edu.sg