Labour coercion and commodification: from the British Empire to postcolonial migration states

Sadiq, K. and Tsourapas, G. (2024) Labour coercion and commodification: from the British Empire to postcolonial migration states. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 50(3), pp. 617-636. (doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2023.2269778)

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Scholars of migration studies have only recently begun to focus on the interconnected histories of empire, postcolonialism, and human mobility. The existing literature presents a rather uncomplicated narrative of migration policy in a Global South unencumbered by the legacies of imperial rule. In this article, we aim to expand the concept of ‘postcolonial migration states’ by drawing parallels between imperial rule and postcolonial migration policymaking. We argue that legacies of imperialism endure in the management of mobility across postcolonial states of the Global South: a legal legacy through the adoption of colonial acts, statutes, and ordinances; and an institutional legacy through the repurposing of colonial bureaucratic infrastructures. We take the case of Indian indentured emigration under British imperial rule and trace its legacies in the contemporary movement of low-skilled labour out of South Asia to the Gulf Cooperation Council states. We find that the processes of labour coercion and commodification remain key features of migration control during and after colonial rule. Ultimately, we argue for the need to re-examine South–South migration processes to identify continuities between imperial policymaking and postcolonial states’ management of human mobility.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Gerasimos Tsourapas’ research is supported by UK Research and Innovation (grant reference no. EP/X019667/1) and the Council for British Research in the Levant (2022 Pilot Study Grant).
Keywords:Migration, global south, postcolonialism, imperialism, South Asia, Middle East.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Tsourapas, Professor Gerasimos
Authors: Sadiq, K., and Tsourapas, G.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Journal Name:Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1469-9451
Published Online:01 December 2023
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 The Author(s)
First Published:First published in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 50(3):617-636
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
319514The International Politics of Mobility SanctionsGerasimos TsourapasEPSRC EU Guarantee (EPSRCEU)EP/X019667/1S&PS - Politics