Transmuted Inequalities of Class, Race, Religion and Nation among South Asian Migrant Workers to the Middle East

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:15 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Sara Nuzhat AMIN , Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh
This paper examines the intersectionalities of class, race, religion and nation among migrant workers from South Asia going to the Middle Eastern and North African countries. In particular it examines how the class positions of the migrant workers in the “destination societies” are racialized and how exclusions experienced in this racialization process impact on the religious and national identities of migrant workers.  By focusing on South-South migration processes regarding religious and national identity, this paper addresses an important gap in the field on identity and migration which has primarily focused on South-North migration dynamics.  This paper thus explores how South-South migration impacts religious and national identity and the consequent politics of belonging in both sending and receiving countries.  The analysis is based on data collected from 2011-2012 from 275 migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to the Middle East.  We found that South Asian migrant workers, shared an experience of racialization and exclusion in relation to the host country populations, whose content was based on religion and national identities.  Exclusion had similar effects on Muslim and non-Muslim migrant workers by shifting their religious identities to become more important and adding a critical dimension to their national identities, while also increasing the sense that their national cultures were better in terms of the status given to women and the treatment of strangers.  Using the intersectionality framework for analysis, the paper concludes with discussions of how inequalities of class and nation are transmuted into inequalities of religion and race and how these transmutations are impacting on the societies of origin of the migrant workers.  This paper thus allows us to understand how inequalities in the societies of work/destination shape and produce inequalities in the societies of origin.