Aspiration and Desperation Traps in Trajectories of Physical and Social Mobility-Immobility

Young Female Migrants in the City

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  • 1 Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands ellen.bal@vu.nl
  • | 2 Senior Researcher, Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Germany hosna.shewly@sk.hs-fulda.de
  • | 3 Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands r.laila@vu.nl
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Abstract

Over the last two decades, Bangladesh has experienced a dramatic shift in terms of female rural–urban migration, often referred to as the feminization of migration. Drawing on extensive ethnographic research on young female migrants’ livelihood experiences in Dhaka and Gazipur, this article makes three contributions to the migration and mobilities literature. First, while migration often constitutes an adequate tool for resolving desperation, it may also cause an aspiration-desperation trap. Secondly, the transformative potential of migration and mobility for changing social relations of class and gender is not always as effective as it is argued. Lastly, by focusing on the temporalities of migrants’ circumstances, we argue that migration is a continuous process in which mobility and immobility are deeply entangled.

Contributor Notes

Ellen Bal is an Associate Professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She works on ethnicity, gender, and migration, and focuses in particular on Bangladesh. Email: ellen.bal@vu.nl

Hosna J. Shewly is a Senior Researcher at the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Germany. She is also a research fellow at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research lies in four broad areas: sovereignty, vulnerability, and borders; migration and mobilities; gender, cities, and rights; and social movements. Email: hosna.shewly@sk.hs-fulda.de

Runa Laila is a research fellow at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She works on gender, sexual and reproductive health rights, livelihood systems, nonformal education, ethnicity, and women's empowerment. Email: r.laila@vu.nl