Gracia Liu-Farrer and Brenda S. A. Yeoh. Routledge Handbook of Asian Migrants. ISBN: 9781138959859 (Print); ISBN: 9781315660493 (eBook); ISBN: 10.4324/9781315660493 (Adobe)

Author:   Gracia Liu-Farrer, & Brenda S.A. Yeoh
Publisher:   GRFDT
Reviewer:   Laila Tasmia
Designation:   Intern

Gracia Liu-Farrer and Brenda S. A. Yeoh. Routledge Handbook of Asian Migrants. ISBN: 9781138959859 (Print); ISBN: 9781315660493 (eBook); ISBN: 10.4324/9781315660493 (Adobe)

Being the largest continent and part of the global population, Asia has diversified forms of migration and mobility which contribute to developing more inclusive migration studies. The Routledge Handbook of Asian Migration can play a good role in that process. The 33 contributors of this book gave the outline of the diverse Asian migration phenomenain three major areas- the context and characteristics of migration from the colonial period to the present time; new conceptualization of migration with Asian migrants’ experiences; and, contemporary migration policy and practices.

In the introduction part, the presentation of Liu-Farrer and Yeoh argued that migration within, from, and to Asia eventually scaled up with the results of economic globalization, demographic transformation, expanded international education, and tourism. According to them, the Asian migration can be understood with three points- a) complex patterns of mobility is visible with the presence of extreme variation and contradictions of the region including richest and poorest societies, from liberal democratic secular states to fundamentalist governments, reasons; b) in the post-colonial nation-states, the nationalist sentiments, and aspiration of regional integration where the former one also rendered migrants (mostly ethnic others) and refugee integration and later one has removed barriers for the flow of people as well as capital and increased potential mobility across borders; c) the rise of migration industries created intersections between state and private sector on migration management and thus news complexities.

The first part of the book has two chapters- one by Amrith on colonial and postcolonial migration in Asia and the other one by Dongen and Liu on the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. Together the chapters explain the historical context behind the present geographic shapes, patterns, and routes for Asian migration. Amrith argued for the global transformation till the World War II including empire expansion that created labor demands in cultivation and roles of mediators like brokers and intermediaries in the ‘kangany’ system[1] have always existed. Alongside that, the technological advancement of geographic communication facilitated people’s movements. Both chapters also provide a historical explanation of how the previous mass migration due to unstable economic and political homelands was introduced to western nationhood and individualism. Later former migrants became symbols of modernity and resulted in modern subjectivity in Asia. The second chapter which focused on the migration history of the Chinese diaspora gave the changing notion of the ‘diaspora’ concept from a journey of ‘forced exiles’ of group identities with hardship to a more flexible social and cultural notion where the desire of eventual return is questioned. The shared identities of Chinese diasporas and labeling them as ‘huaqiao’ people[2] also represent efforts of harnessing economic power which shaped migration pathways, increased migration, and gave the cultural logic. These background reflections are more understandable in the next part of the book which shows the contemporary migration pattern in Asia.

In the second part of this book, the six chapters are consisting of the contemporary issues around diversified migration pathways and institutional frameworks (e.g. national policies) as well as practices that facilitate or control it. Labour migration and economic issues are reflected in the three chapters by Baas, Whittaker, and Liu-Farrer; the chapter by Ge and Ho discussed the intra-Asia higher education mobilities; the chapter by Hwang and Parrenas discussed intimate migration issues; return migration as well as linkages with diaspora engaged are covered by the two chapters by Ho and Wei and Tsuda. The third chapter by Baas on temporary labor migration showed how this contemporary feature of migration is not only the expected source of economy and human capital but also ethically and conceptually a problematic category. While temporariness has been an illusion including high human cost and undescribed credentialism under ‘unskilled/semi-skilled criteria. However, the countries of destination and origin encourage temporariness to secure the host country from the ‘threat of social order’ and bring finances to the home country. And here the chapters on the return concept provide further contemporary analysis, like Ho and Lim’s chapter describes that Asian governments have three types of return programmes- a) labour migration management by servicing and controlling unskilled/semi-skilled ones; b) luring back high skilled capital-bearing ones with incentives; and, c) encouraging ethnic diaspora’s return to reap labour power as well as finances. And in some cases, for example in Japan and South Korea (in the seventh chapter by Tsuda), the return projects turned out to be a manipulative action to import temporary low-wage labours, like ‘nikkei’ Brazilians[3]. In terms of understanding women and migration, this part of the book, especially the fourth chapter by Hwang and Parrenas gave interesting arguments. Asian migration prominently contributed to progressing the women's migration conceptualization as an independent actor which theoretically should contribute to women’s social position. Nevertheless, the authors of part two argue that- a) migration is opening some spaces for women’s mobility but it also reconfigures different gender hierarchies, inequalities, subordination, and lack of securities; b) the complexities of intimate migration are beyond the generalization of combining it with human trafficking which speaks about the underexplored unequal heterosexual relationship, domestic violence, restrictive movements and results in a ‘holistic worlds view’ to shape emigration and immigration policies that disproportionately affect migrant women. One of the best features of this book is to cover some overlooked areas of migration like student mobility (covered by Ge and Ho) and medical migration (covered by Whittaker). It described these new migration patterns are related to political and economic change in Asia. Although student mobility is mostly in the West, the intra-regional education and medical facilities are commodified as luxury and political insurance. The internationalism of education in Asia became an important indicator of Asia’s globalization and medical care has become a national development strategy.

The third part of this book includes Lin and Gliess’s analysis of migration and production, Lindquist and Xiang’s specific focus on migration infrastructure, Coate’s arguments on cultural logic, Sklendon’s questions about separating internal from international migration, and two chapters by Mahdavi and Farrer on conceptualizing differences in human trafficking versus voluntary migration and boundaries of migrant’s identities. This part of the book mainly questions the traditional economic and motivational conceptualization of migration which can put many Asian experiences as discrete events and advocates for processual thinking with Asian experiences. Several chapters of this part have some arguments- a) Lin and Gleiss’s chapter 10 shares that the political economy, transport technology, and border governance are responsible for shaping migration patterns; b) migration is more than a process how Lindquist and Xiang described in chapter eleven as five interactive dimensions of migration infrastructure- commercial recruitment, (state) regulatory, technological, humanitarian and social (networking); c) Coats’s chapter 12 provides the cultural logic of migration- till 19th-century migration studies majorly focused on measurable economic logic with avoidance of subjective and cultural linkages; there are also cultural desires of modern subjectivity (as described in part 1); d) the methodological gaps are visible in migration studies by separating movements from issues of borders and people who cross those which is cleared and interlinked by arguments of Skeldon in chapter thirteen; Skeldon suggested for ‘step’ migration[4] analysis.

The fourth part of this book focused on analyzing the considered ‘challenges’ and ‘controversies’ around migration in Asia. It includes Cole and Rigg’s arguments on migration and poverty; snaps of remittance and trade-in migration by Martin's chapter; analysis on transnationalism with chapters by Yeoh and Lam et. al. chapters; and specific debates around non-citizen political engagement by Chung and Abbas’s chapter. This part of the book provides some concrete arguments- a) development of migration is context-dependent where the economic and social development through migration (recruitment, remittance, or return) depends on how these processes are managed; b) issues of migration and citizenship needs to be re-examined from the focus on political incorporation to political empowerment to understand changing global contexts and immigrants’ interests; c) the controversial ‘irregular migration’ is the result of misclassification, lack of diligence and disjunctions in the migration process and governance; d) with Colonial effects, the contemporary urban Asian life has complexities of exclusion of ethnic and cultural diversities; e) transnationalism has large disruptions and effects on family lives; f) borders and related issues are the struggle zones for migrants who cross it.

However, the readers may find some limitations in this book. Although this book contributes to an overall idea about underexplored features of Asian migration, this still lacks incorporation of the critical analysis of the intersectional connections among diversified migration patterns. The historical analysis focused on the two largest communities (Indian and Chinese) which may not reflect the migration history of smaller communities. Although the book covered the underexplored student and medical mobility, especially in inter-regional migration, the experiences of Asian student migrants in other continents are still less reflected which could give more analytical angles for understanding the third binary of migration. Nevertheless, this book is a must reading in any type of literature review on Asian migration. It is can be also a pleasant reading for non-fictional readers who may have a curiosity about how Asian migration looks like.

Laila Tasmia is a Sustainable Development practitioner, currently obtaining her master’s in Sustainable Development Management at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences under DAAD scholarship as well as doing a research internship at GRFDT.

[1] The Kangany System was a recruitment process in South Asia under British rule which is done through informal networks.

[2] Huaqiao refers to those Chinese citizens who are living abroad.

[3] ‘nikkei’ Brazilians mean the ethnic Japanese living in Brazil.

[4] According to Skelton, it is mainly the process where rural migrants move to urban to accumulate resources and then move across borders while there is any opportunity. 


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