Backing themselves: East Timorese labour migrants in Oxford

By: Andrew McWilliam, Associate Professor, Australian National University

Andrew was a visiting academic at COMPAS September –December 2014. His blog post reports on recent research with migrants in Oxford.

Most afternoons in East Oxford, one can find small groups of young Timorese men gathered in the ubiquitous gambling shops of Ladbrokes, Betfred and similar along the busy streets of Cowley Road and Templar Square. Favouring their chances on the digital roulette machines or football betting, gambling represents a congenial break from the monotony of 12 hour work shifts, a place to catch up with mates and always the possibility of a windfall gain when the numbers go their way.

smart shoes leaning against wallThese young men represent a small proportion of the growing East Timorese migrant community, who have arrived in numbers on Portuguese passports following the historic achievement of independence from Indonesia in 2002. The majority seek employment in the low and semi-skilled services sector and factories of the city. Here they count themselves lucky to earn minimum wages (£220/ week), but through shared living arrangements and careful spending many are able to save upwards of £300 a month, far more than the USD4 a day on offer in their homeland where poverty and unemployment persist. Much of these savings are remitted home to support families and loved ones for a variety of needs including everyday consumption, rebuilding houses, supporting the education of siblings, and as contributions to life cycle rituals of exchange (especially marriages and funerals) which remain regular expressions of a revitalised sociality still recovering from the dislocations of 24 years of militarised occupation.

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Tibetan Women and Nuns: What’s Missing in Our Discussion on Borders and Gender?

By: Bodean Hedwards, PhD student at Monash University, Australia

This post is part of the joint blog series on ‘Gender and Migration’ co-hosted by Border Criminologies and COMPAS. Posts in this series will be published on both blogs every Friday until the end of June.

fence signThere are a multitude of individual realities that exist at borders and within borderlands that are often neglected in contemporary border studies. After listening to the stories of Tibetan refugees living in India, it was evident that there are complex social, political and religious factors that exist within the Tibetan borderlands that have been ignored. While the way we navigate borders in their physical form has become an increasingly critical component of criminological research over the last decade, the pace at which social, political and cultural contexts change means that borders are constantly evolving and creating different challenges for different people. Tibetan border crossings present a platform to begin to investigate these challenges, and at the same time, explore the border realities of a migrant population that to date remains undocumented in critical criminology. In light of this, this post presents some of my initial observations of the interactions between Tibetan women and the border, with a particular focus on the non-physical border constructs and the role gender plays in the navigation of these borders.

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Education and perceptions: learning about migration through theatre

By: Ida Persson, Research & Communications Officer

“I have just seen more learning this evening than I do in a whole curriculum”. That was the response of an academic in the audience at the performance of “Undocumented Migrants Children’s Lives and Stories” by students at Capital City Academy, in Brent London on 19 March 2015.

The stage at Capital City Academy. Photo by Vanessa Hughes.

The stage at Capital City Academy. Photo by Vanessa Hughes.

This was the second performance produced by the project “Exploring Migration: Research and Drama in Schools”. This project explores the issues facing undocumented migrant families in the UK and works with school children using theatrical material developed from the COMPAS project “Undocumented Migrant Children in the UK”. The first performance was put on by students from Lord Williams’s School, Thame, in Oxford in December 2014. The lessons learned from that initial performance, about impact, public engagement, and the use of theatre as a tool for disseminating research were very much echoed in London (see previous blog here). But in London, where we worked with 10 enthusiastic students from Year 9, 10 and sixth form, what was emphasised throughout the rehearsal process, the performance and the Q&A was education and the learning experience.

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‘Victims of Trafficking’ and ‘Foreign Criminals’ – Constructing the state as our (masculine) saviour

By: Luke de Noronha, DPhil Candidate in Anthropology (COMPAS), University of Oxford

This post is part of the joint blog series on ‘Gender and Migration’ co-hosted by Border Criminologies and COMPAS. Posts of this series will be published in both blogs every Friday until the end of June.

Photo by Pawel O'Brien, COMPAS Photo Competition 2010

Photo by Pawel O’Brien, COMPAS Photo Competition 2010

Some people who live outside of their country of origin don’t really count as migrants. They might be expats; they might not be named at all. But Australian backpackers, French nannies, and international bankers are not really what we mean when we talk about migrants. If, however, you are the kind of person we mean when we talk about the migrant – i.e. you are racialised and/or poor – then you are generally portrayed as either a victim or a villain. Migrants are constructed as victims and villains by a range of actors (i.e. institutions of the state, journalists, politicians, judges, migrant advocates, and academics).

Gender and race are central to determining who goes where within this framework. In my work on ‘foreign criminals’, I examine the mechanics of gender and race in producing villains. ‘Foreign criminals’ have attracted much media and political interest in recent years; they are discursively constructed as racialised men who commit acts of hypermasculinist violence, often sexual, thus imperilling ‘our’ streets and, importantly, ‘our’ women. This construction of the ‘foreign criminal’ as a monstrous villain works to justify, on moral grounds, policies of imprisonment, indefinite detention, and deportation.

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Posted in Flows and Dynamics, human rights, immigration, migration, research, trafficking | Leave a comment