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Dealing with deportability: Deportation laws and the political personhood of temporary migrant workers in Singapore

Bal, C.S. (2015) Dealing with deportability: Deportation laws and the political personhood of temporary migrant workers in Singapore. Asian Journal of Law and Society, 2 (2). pp. 267-284.

Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1017/als.2015.17
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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.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Publisher: World Scientific Publishing
Copyright: © Cambridge University Press and KoGuan Law School
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/66214
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