Journal Article

Migration Infrastructure

Published 1 January 2014 / By Biao Xiang, Johan Lindquist

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Based on the authors' long-term field research on low-skilled labour migration from China and Indonesia, this article establishes that more than ever, labour migration is intensively mediated. Migration infrastructure – the systematically interlinked technologies, institutions, and actors that facilitate and condition mobility – is a concept to unpack the mediation process. Migration can be more clearly conceptualized by focusing on infrastructure rather than state policies, the labour market, or migrant social networks alone. The article also points to a trend of "infrastructural involution" in which the interplay between different dimensions of migration infrastructure makes it self-perpetuating and self-serving and impedes rather than enhances people's migratory capability. This explains why labour migration has become both more accessible and more cumbersome in many parts of Asia since the late 1990s. The notion of migration infrastructure calls for less fixated research on migration as behaviour or migrants as the primary subject and more concerned with broader societal transformations.

Xiang, B. & Lindquist, J. (2014)''Migration Infrastructure'', International Migration Review, 48: S122–S148