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Desired formality

Labor migration, black markets, and the state in Chile

Sofía Ugarte

Formal work is essential to gain legal residence in Chile and the reason why Latin American and Caribbean migrants purchase fake contracts on the black market. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with migrant Haitian women applying for work visas in Santiago, this article explores the effects of desired formality and its promises of a good life on contemporary statehood in Chile. The analysis shows how Haitian women’s efforts to become formal workers transform their experiences as racialized and gendered migrants in Chile, and impact how state institutions manage and control migration. Desired formality reveals the paradoxical character of state policies that help create a racialized and precarious labor force within its legal frameworks and explain why migrants attach themselves to fragile good-life projects in new countries.

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Jack Hunter, Annelin Eriksen, Jon Mitchell, Mattijs van de Port, Magnus Course, Nicolás Panotto, Ruth Barcan, David M. R. Orr, Girish Daswani, Piergiorgio Di Giminiani, Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Sofía Ugarte, Ryan J. Cook, Bettina E. Schmidt, and Mylene Mizrahi