Managing Migrants: Class and Emigration from India

MAY 08, 2020 | 3:00 PM TO 5:00 PM



Online via Zoom


May 08, 2020: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM




Sociology Program


Join us for the last colloquium of the year! 

Managing Migrants: Class and Emigration from India

Speaker: Rina Agarwala, Associate Professor of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University

RSVP on Eventbrite to receive a Zoom link for the talk. Click here to go to the Eventbrite page. 

Description: How are sending country governments managing the out-migration or emigration of their citizens and how are migrants reacting to and reshaping sending state actions? This project employs a comparative-historical examination to answer these questions using a class lens. Contemporary global migration is not only marked by its sheer size and racial diversity, it is unprecedented in its class variation. These class variations have catalyzed countless and well-publicized challenges for state leaders in receiving countries. In sending countries, however, the class politics of out-migration is virtually unknown. To address these questions, this project compares the Indian state’s relations with its low-skilled emigrants to the Middle East and its high-skilled emigrants to the U.S. from the 1920s to the present. Contrary to assertions that sending states’ emigration policies are merely reacting to externally-imposed “neoliberal” development models of economic growth, I argue that global emigration has long served as a proactive vector through which sending states re-shape and cement new domestic-level economic ideologies. Sending state emigration policies, therefore, do not just reflect pre-determined development goals, they shape those development goals. In India, emigration has been used to empower some classes, while disempowering others before and after the rise of neoliberalism, thereby exposing “class” as a much bigger factor than “neoliberalism” in explaining the variations in India’s migration policies (across peoples and across time). The terms of the class-based inequities underlying India’s development ideologies have changed over time, although the inequities themselves have remained consistent. These findings not only provide a more complete picture of global migration efforts, they also expose the conditions under which migrants’ resistance efforts succeed and fail.