Hilary 2019

Reproduction Migrations in the Asia Pacific

Mondays 11:00 - 13:00
64 Banbury Road, Oxford

Convened by: FRSG & COMPAS

Industrialised countries in the West have attracted an ever larger proportion of immigrants since the late 1990s despite their decline in the share of global GDP. In contrast, a number of fast-developing countries in Asia, particularly China and those in South and Southeast Asia, have experienced rapid increases in outward mobility, even as they become new centres of the world economy. Why do the global distributions of migration and production mismatch? This project aims to test the hypothesis that reproduction—activities that maintain and reproduce human life on a daily and generational basis—is becoming a main driving force of migration. By “reproduction migration” (RM) we mean movement of people for the purpose of maintaining and reproducing life, both individual and collective. Such migration is closely bound up with people’s strategies and motives at successive life course stages. Migration provides a means by which people seek success in: childbearing and rearing; marriage; education; employment in care-giving at adult ages; and access to caregivers and affordable living standards in late life. Rates of RM are increasing much faster than that of productive labour. Advanced countries attract immigrants because, as global centres, they provide a greater concentration of opportunities for realising these strategies.

This seminar series is also a step towards developing a larger hypothesis that RM is becoming a critical source of economic value and will shape the world division of labour in the 21st century. By so doing we hope to nuance the currently dominant narrative that economic power is shifting from the West to the East.

A joint seminar series between the Fertility and Reproductions Studies Group (FRSG) and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS)






Convened by:
Biao Xiang, COMPAS, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Mika Toyota, Rikkyo University
Philip Kreager, Director, The Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group (FRSG)


11 March

Global householding, care migration and the question of gender inequality

Brenda Yeoh, National University of Singapore

(Oxford School of Global and Area Studies-COMPAS public seminar)

Concerned with the links between migration, household reproduction and the reproduction of societies in an age of globalisation, this paper draws on Douglass’ (2006) formulation of “global householding” to emphasise the view that the reproduction of social and economic life is increasingly reliant on the international movement of people and transactions among family members residing across national borders. In particular, since the 1990s, domestic service work has taken on a transnational dimension with large numbers of women from the world’s less developed nations migrating to work as lowly paid domestics performing care work and other forms of household labour in developed countries, often under retrogressive conditions, in response to global economic restructuring. Despite their often marginalised positions, female migrant domestic workers are vital contributors to the maintenance and well-being of both their left-behind as well as host families, both local and transnational communities and ultimately, both the receiving and sending nation-states. Using the case of domestic work migration in Southeast Asia (e.g. from Indonesia to Singapore), this paper examines how gender inequality is both a pre-condition as well as a growing effect of the transnational provisioning of everyday and generational care at both ends of care migration. It also explores how the social relation of “care” (e.g. childcare, eldercare) may be conserved, reconstituted or ruptured in the process of householding on a transnational scale.

04 March

Educational migration: Youth, time and transformation

Francis Collins, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Education related mobility has been one of the fastest growing forms of migration in recent years. The number of international students has grown from two to five million in the first two decades of the 21st century alongside increasing mobility of academic staff and the development of new transnational delivery models for education. The geographies of education migration have tended to be characterised by movement of students from Asian nations towards the west, a pattern that speaks to the value associated with western education, the English language and the experiences of travel. While an East-West directionality remains dominant, there is growing diversification in the places students come from and go to, as well as the socio-economic backgrounds of students themselves. These changing patterns speak to core concerns of academic scholarship on student mobility, which have placed significant emphasis on overseas education as a form of “cultural capital”, on the “value” of university credentials and the social networks formed at elite institutions. Other more critical questions have also emerged about how student mobility articulates with conceptions of youth, the cultivation of desire for education and the possibilities for transformation that are generated and blocked in migration for education. All of these concerns relate to questions of reproduction, how young people and their families envisage their futures, the role of education and migration in the enhancement of livelihoods, and the formation of intimate relations with others through migration.

14 January

China in the Global reproduction migration order: Through the lens of international student mobility

Peidong Yang, National Institute of Education, Singapore

Reproduction migration (RM) is defined as mobilities that serve to reproduce, maintain, and enhance human life. International student mobility (ISM) is an important type of RM because overseas higher education is not only a strategy commonly pursued by individuals and families to reproduce class advantage/status, but is also often used by nations and institutions to reproduce human capital. Drawing on the author’s ethnographic research on two cases of student mobility involving China – (1) Chinese youth recruited as “foreign talent scholars” by Singapore government, and (2) self-funded Indian students pursuing English-medium medical degrees in second/third-tier Chinese universities – this paper offers heuristic considerations of China’s positioning in the global education mobility landscape. The paper posits that, as the world’s largest sending country of international students, China sees an exodus of value not only in monetary terms but also through the emigration of people/talent. On the other hand, as a destination for international students, China’s role seems twofold: as a cultural attraction for educational tourists mostly from the West, and as a quasi-advanced country for less privileged youths from countries less developed than China to imitate the quest for social mobility through international education.

21 January

Intimate geopolitics: Migration, marriage and citizenship across Chinese borders

Elena Barabantseva, University of Manchester

What is ‘Intimate Geopolitics’ and why is it a useful analytical concept for examining marriage migration?

In this seminar I depart from the geopolitical and biopolitical conceptualizations of marriage migration to situate the growing discourses on the demographic challenges in contemporary China in the developing immigration regime and state concerns over ‘marriage crisis’. I will first introduce China’s governing regime of international marriages from the perspective of its sovereign concerns related to border control, population management and national security. I will then share findings from my research project on ‘Marriage Migration across China’s Borders’. Drawing on life stories of the post-Soviet women, I will discuss how women engage in intimate geopolitics in the limited and restrictive immigration and family environments afforded to them in China. The concept of intimate geopolitics here serves as an analytical lens to examine the interplay of structural and personal dimensions of marriage migration and to capture how the women develop their citizenship and parental rights strategies to tackle emotional uncertainties about their immigrant and family statuses in China.

28 January

Grandparenting migration: Reproduction, care circulations and care ethics across borders

Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho, National University of Singapore

In the context of the One-Child policy in Mainland China, Chinese families which had sent their only child to study abroad are now witnessing their children transition into working life and start their own families overseas. Other young Chinese adults pursued better life opportunities by seeking careers in foreign destinations independently. Singapore and Sydney are two popular destinations for young Chinese families to settle abroad, prompted partly by immigration policies that are aimed at renewing those countries’ own labour force and reproductive capacities. However, young Chinese parents struggle to balance their work and childcare duties abroad. Their parents travel between China and Singapore/Sydney to provide childcare help (i.e. grandparenting migrants). Grandparenting migrants use a range of visas and spatial strategies as the immigration countries exercise restrictive policies towards elderly persons. The transnational care circulations in which they are embedded raise concerns over their eldercare needs later in life since their children intend to remain overseas, disrupting traditional expectations of eldercare in Chinese families. The migration trends described above link population concerns in China to those of the countries where younger migrants have settled, creating multi-generational and transnational care circulations as well as new questions for care responsibilities and care ethics across national contexts.

04 February

Investment migration & social reproduction: The case of recent patterns of migration from China

Gracia Liu-Farrer, Waseda University, Japan

In this presentation I introduce two migration trends that have emerged and developed rapidly in the decade of 2010s in China: the out migration of the rich Chinese businessmen, and the student migration to European countries, especially the UK. These two types of migration overlap to a certain extent, and entail different degrees of financial investments. They also represent two types of strategies for social reproduction and social mobility through geographic mobility. The rich Chinese investment migration, with the US and Australia as the most popular destinations, aims at elevating class positions by converting parent generation’s wealth into their children’s elite cultural capital. The student migration to UK, on the other hand, is often a social reproductive strategy adopted by middle or upper middle-class families in provincial towns to overcome regional inequality.

11 February

Birth tourism from China & Taiwan to the United States: Cosmopolitan strategies and aspirations

Sean Wang, Max Planck Institute, Berlin

In recent years, global migrations and the proliferation of new citizenship regimes have together produced increasingly complex categories of national belonging. Nonetheless, countries still overwhelmingly assign citizenship at birth based on descent or territory. This contradiction meant that the persistence of birthright citizenship has given rise to new citizenship strategies based on transnational reproductive geographies. This seminar traces how this contradiction produces a particular form of reproductive geography known as “birth tourism,” where pregnant women travel abroad to give birth in order to secure foreign citizenship for their newborns. In particular, Chinese and Taiwanese women have travelled to places like Southern California to deliver their babies, and their presence has often drawn the ire of US residents and politicians. This seminar introduces some empirics about Chinese birth tourism from ethnographic fieldwork and media analysis of recent controversies. It will explore regional contexts and practices in China and Taiwan that have encouraged birth tourism and reflect on how they have impacted families’ cosmopolitan strategies and aspirations related to foreign citizenship.

18 February

Mobility, reproduction and transvaluation in international surrogacy in South East Asia

Andrea Whittaker, Monash University, Australia

The paper explores the relationships between reproduction, mobility, and transvaluation using international commercial surrogacy in South East Asia as a case study. Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby (2014) have epitomised the surrogacy industry as ‘clinical labor’ involving rentier capitalist relations building upon the extraction of biovalue (see also Nahman 2013). In this paper I develop understanding of this post-Fordist industry further by arguing that it has several characteristics: it is flexible, rapidly responding to change and opportunities; it is multinational, with  many clinics and facilitators working across borders; it places surrogates and ova donors as independent contractors to maximise flexibility with few protections;  it utilises new social media to develop its market; it extracts value from bodies by building upon the economic differences between surrogates and intending parents but also by feeding off the local moral economies which valorise women’s roles as gestators and bearers of children.  Like many of the new industries of our age, it is disruptive, providing new surrogacy and ova options for the market and creating new demands for what was a restricted resource; it also thrives on a lack of regulation.

25 February

Child-rearing as global security strategies: Parenting, class, and im/mobility in Taiwan and the US

Pei-Chia Lan, National Taiwan University

My new book, Raising Global Families (Stanford 2018), uses parenting as an empirical lens to examine cultural transformation and persisting inequality in the contexts of globalisation and immigration. Juxtaposing parents in Taiwan and their immigrant counterparts in the US, I situate parents’ educational choices and child-rearing practice in a transnational social space. Regardless of whether they ever engage in personal interaction, co-ethnic parents across the Pacific are structurally interconnected through the relations of emulation, competition, distinction, and so on. I coin the concept of “global security strategies” to highlight the global contexts that situate both parents’ perception of risk and their strategies for mitigating insecurities. The cross-country, cross-class comparison demonstrates that the“global”is imagined and lived differently for families across the socioeconomic spectrum and that parents negotiate ethnic culture to respond to local opportunity structure. Child-rearing is a critical site for us to examine how different sorts of mobilities and immobilities are interconnected across locales and borders.

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