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Migration and Citizenship Policy in Asia

Migration and Citizenship Policy in Asia

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Mini-Conference on Migration and Citizenship Policy in Asia

Friday, March 1, 2024
2:00 PM - 6:00 PM (Pacific Time)
Bunche 10383
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Mini-Conference on “Migration and Citizenship Policy in Asia”

Friday, March 1, 2024 (2pm to 6pm)

10383 Bunche Hall, UCLA

Co-Organized by the Center for the Study of International Migration and Asia Pacific Center

Co-Sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies and the Center for Korean Studies




Shaohua Zhan, Nanyang Technological University; Min Zhou, UCLA

Involuntary Transnationalism and Regulated Precarity: Lived Experiences of Skilled Chinese and Indian Migrants in Singapore”


Phung N. Su, Department of Sociology, University of California, San Diego

“En(gender)ing Family Formation: Gender as a Constraint on and an Enabler of Migration in Asia”


Suzy Lee, Binghampton University

“Temporary Measures: Migrant Workers and the Developmental State in South Korean and the Philippines”


Kamal Sadiq, UC Irvine; Gerasimos Tsourapas, University of Glasgow

“Labor Coercion and Commodification: From the British Empire to Postcolonial Migration States”






Involuntary Transnationalism and Regulated Precarity: Lived Experiences of Skilled Chinese and Indian Migrants in Singapore”

Shaohua Zhan, Sociology Division, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Min Zhou, Department of Sociology, UCLA


Abstract: The burgeoning literature on migrant transnationalism has overwhelmingly focused on individual agency and host-society integration. As such, transnationalism has been seen as an agentic practice, whereby migrants proactively pursue economic mobility and create transnational spaces across national borders. While acknowledging such agency, this paper underlines that transnationalism also involves forced-choice decision making by migrants whose work and daily lives are subjected to structural constraints beyond individual control. We examine highly skilled Chinese and Indian migrants in Singapore and their transnational engagement with their homelands. Based on survey data and in-depth interviews, we show how global capitalism and host-country immigration regulations have heightened the precarity of skilled foreign workers who constantly face employment insecurity and the risk of unsettlement. We employ “involuntary transnationalism” to describe the phenomenon that skilled migrants utilize transnationalism as a coping strategy to mitigate temporality and precariousness. We conclude by highlighting the significance of immigration regimes and implications for understanding integration, transnationalism, and multinational migrations.


“En(gender)ing Family Formation: Gender as a Constraint on and an Enabler of Migration in Asia”

Phung N. Su, Department of Sociology, University of California, San Diego


Abstract: How does the relationship between capitalism and reproductive labor infuse state policies toward family formation and migration? “Population crisis”, “fertility decline”, and “aging population” are words that, in 2023 alone, have decorated the pages of prominent news outlets from NPR to CNN to BBC. In Asia, concerns over fertility decline have motivated policymakers in places like South Korea and Taiwan to adopt solutions, from meet-and-greets to monetary incentives, with the hopes of remedying their countries’ low birthrates. Among state approaches, policies designed to facilitate the immigration of foreign brides, often women from poorer countries, are noteworthy. In particular, as wealthy countries in Asia confront the possibility of aging out of existence, they are looking to women from poorer countries to provide reproductive relief. Drawing on 19 months of ethnography and interviews in South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, I argue that notions of the family, as characterized by the expectation on women to provide reproductive labor and on men to be economic providers, shape the immigration of foreign women, specifically rural Vietnamese women, into Taiwan and South Korea as migrant brides. Women’s marriage migration, as I further show, has important implications on rural Vietnamese men and their ability to form families. Given that wealthy countries in Asia are not the only ones experiencing falling birthrates, this study us to think critically about who can and cannot form families, and how their ability to do so is part and parcel of a global structure rooted in inequality and unequal access. 


“Temporary Measures: Migrant Workers and the Developmental State in South Korean and the Philippines”

Suzy Lee, Department of Human Development, Binghampton University


Abstract: In this paper, I examine when and how migration can be connected to economic development and growth. The central case for my analysis is the Philippines, a country that is well-known for a high rate of migration and remittance that has been sustained for nearly five decades. For most of this time, the Philippine migration experience was consistent with critical assessments of migration’s impact on economic development, doing little more than sustaining consumption while the economy stumbled from crisis to crisis. In recent years, however, remittance-spending migrant workers and their families have helped to drive nearly a decade of growth rates that are among the highest in Asia. To understand the Philippines’ trajectory – this success from initial failure – I compare this central case against the case of South Korea, a country that also initiated a labor export program in the mid-twentieth century, but experienced very different economic result in the first two decades of systematic state-sponsored labor migration.  I argue that these countries represent two different models through which economic growth and contract migration can be connected.


“Labour Coercion and Commodification: From the British Empire to Postcolonial Migration States”

Kamal Sadiq, UC Irvine; Gerasimos Tsourapas, University of Glasgow

Abstract: 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.




Suzy Lee is a sociologist and legal scholar whose work focuses on international labor migration, the transformations in migration law and policy in the neoliberal era, and the implication of migration policy for the protection of migrants’ rights. Lee's primary line of research examines the development of sending state policy regimes, with a focus on contract migration programs in the Philippines and South Korea. Other projects include studies on the effect of neoliberal economic policy on migration regimes, immigration policy and human trafficking, and the formation of political identity in deindustrialized and rural regions of the U.S. Lee is also the program director for Binghamton University's MS in Human Rights program, and teaches a range of undergraduate and graduate courses on political economy, human rights, and international migration.


Kamal Sadiq (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is an associate professor of political science and Director of the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies (CGPACS) at the University of California, Irvine. He researches migration, citizenship and security processes, institutions, and policies across the Global South, specifically in South Asia (India, Bangladesh, and Nepal) and South-East Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia). Kamal is the author of Paper Citizens: How Illegal Immigrants Acquire Citizenship in Developing Countries (Oxford, 2009), co-editor of Interpreting Politics: Situated Knowledge, India, and the Rudolph Legacy (Oxford, 2020) and his articles appear in European Journal of International Relations, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, PS: Political Science & Politics, the Oxford Handbook of Citizenship, and select edited books. Kamal has chaired the Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration Studies (ENMISA) section of the International Studies Association (ISA) and the Migration and Citizenship section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). He serves on the editorial board of the journal Migration Studies, Citizenship Studies and the advisory board of the journal Migration Politics.


Phung N. Su is a University of California Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at the University of California, San Diego and an incoming Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has published and presented on gender, globalization and migration, and social scientific methodology as related to Asia and Asian America. Her current book project, Women Who Leave and the Men They Leave Behind: Marriage, Markets, and Migration is a historically-situated ethnographic and interviewing study that examines outmigration from rural Vietnam across three different countries (South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam). It tells a story about a hierarchy of marriageability that is enabled by a corresponding hierarchy of nation-states, showing how global inequalities not only determine who is deemed marriageable or unmarriageable, it can also shape how and why individuals migrate.


Shaohua Zhan is Associate Professor of Sociology and Head of the Sociology Division, School of Social Sciences at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His research interests include international migration, land politics, food security, social policy, and comparative historical research, with a focus on China and other East Asian nations. He is the author of China and Global Food Security (Cambridge University Press, 2022) and The Land Question in China: Agrarian Capitalism, Industrious Revolution, and East Asian Development (Routledge, 2019). His current projects focus on Indian and Chinese migrants in comparative perspective, transnational grandparenting, and China’s land and food issues.


Min Zhou is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies, Walter and Shirley Wang Endowed Chair in US-China Relations and Communications, and Director of the Asia Pacific Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her main research areas are in migration & development, race and ethnicity, Chinese diasporas, Asian American studies, and urban sociology. She has published widely in these areas, including Chinatown: The Socioeconomic Potential of an Urban Enclave (1992), Growing up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (with Bankston, 1998); Contemporary Chinese America (2009), The Asian American Achievement Paradox (with Lee, 2015), The Rise of the New Second Generation (with Bankston, 2016), Contemporary Chinese Diasporas (ed., 2017), and Beyond Economic Migration: Historical, Social, and Political Factors in US Immigration (eds., with Mahmud, 2023).


Download file: Graduate-student-workshop-announcement-2024-zw-nss.pdf

Sponsor(s): Center for Study of International Migration, Asia Pacific Center, Center for Chinese Studies, Cosponsored by Center for Chinese Studies & Center for Korean Studies