ARI Working Paper Series
WPS 71 Village Transnationalism: Transborder Identities among Thai-Isan Migrant Workers in Singapore
Publisher : Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Publication Date : Aug / 2006
Author/Speaker: KITIARSA Pattana
Keywords : village transnationalism; transborder identities; contracted migrant worker; Thai-Isan/Northeastern Thailand

Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Thai-Isan (the Northeastern Thai), male migrant workers in Singapore’s construction industry in 2004, I propose ‘village transnationalism’ as a conceptual model for understanding the transnationalization and globalization processes from below. Exclusively hailing from rural working-class and farming backgrounds, Thai-Isan migrant workers have redefined their transborder identities by relying on their limited cultural and symbolic capital from their home villages to survive the hardship working as ‘3D workers on 3D jobs’ in a foreign land. My primary aim is to engage with the current ‘transnational turn’ in the anthropology of border-crossing and international migration studies. It is argued that village transnationalism as an analytical as well as explanatory model could be applicable to some extents to other forms of contracted migrant workers (i.e., construction workers, domestic workers, and farm/plantation workers), especially in the intensively constricted and highly regulated contexts of Southeast Asian countries.