Gender, Precarity, and the Professions: African Women Scientists As Transnational Migrant Workers

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Josephine BEOKU-BETTS, Center for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA

According to Guy Standing (2012), the precariat are characterized by instability in their labor market participation, lack the work based identity other sectors of the labor force possess, and can be used and discarded by their employers without any sense of security or obligation. Feminist scholars such as Judith Butler (2012, 168) stress that “we have always to link “precarity” with forms of social and political agency where that is possible”. This paper examines the experiences of African women who are skilled migrant workers, drawing on a qualitative study of four Sierra Leonean women scientists. I examine how their lived experiences as migrant workers make them vulnerable to some of the tendencies which inform an understanding of “precarity”. I discuss how their racialization and vulnerable status as skilled migrant workers have heightened their awareness of global economic disparities, including their marginalization as scientists from global South countries. I also show how their lived experience in precarious employment engender their involvement in social networks with their families and professions in their nation state as a way to exercise political agency and to maintain their sense of identity and belonging as professional transnational migrants.