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Classifying the “ideal migrant worker”

Mexican and Jamaican transnational farmworkers in Canada

Janet McLaughlin

This article analyzes the ideology and practice of multi-unit competition that pervades neoliberal subjectivities and produces the “ideal” flexible worker within contemporary global capitalism. It demonstrates how state and capitalist interests converge to influence the selection of the ideal transnational migrant worker, how prospective migrants adapt to these expectations, and the consequences of such enactments, particularly for migrants, but also for the societies in which they live and work. Multiple levels of actors—employers, state bureaucrats, and migrants themselves—collude in producing the flexible, subaltern citizen, which includes constructions and relations of class, race, gender, and nationality/citizenship. The case study focuses on Mexican and Jamaican participants in Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, a managed migration program that legally employs circular migrant farmworkers from Mexico and several English-speaking Caribbean countries in Canadian agriculture.

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Pauline Gardiner Barber

This article addresses the politics of class, culture, and complicity associated with Philippine gendered-labor export. Several examples drawn from multisited ethnographic research explore two faces of class: migrant performances of subordination contrasted with militancy in the labor diaspora. With few exceptions, the literature on Philippine women in domestic service has emphasized disciplined subjectivities, the everyday dialectics of subordination. But class is also represented in these same relationships, understandings, and actions. Alternatively, the political expressions of Philippine overseas workers, and their supporters, is a feature of Philippine migration that is not often mentioned in writing concerned with migrant inequalities. This article proposes a reconciliation of these two faces of class expression by exploring how new media, primarily cell-phone technologies, enhance possibilities for organized and personal resistance by Filipino migrants, even as they facilitate migrant acquiescence, linked here to gendered subordination and class complicity, in the contentious reproduction of the migrant labor force.