A Talk by Laavanya Kathiravelu
Cosponsored by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, South Asia @ NYU, NYU Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, and Metropolitan Studies Program in the NYU Department of Social and Cultural Analysis.
The Gulf emirate of Dubai is highly dependent on migrant labor, with 85 percent of its population non-citizen foreigners. The overwhelming majority are men from South India who labor in low-waged jobs in the booming construction and hospitality industries. They are integral to Dubai’s recent efforts to become a ‘global city’, but are simultaneously excluded from its economic successes.
Most existing research on low waged migrants in the Gulf emphasizes the conditions of structural violence under which they work, and their physical and social exclusion within the metropolitan contexts in which they live and labor. This talk interrogates these uni-dimensional narratives of victimhood through two interrelated questions. Despite knowledge of discrimination and the violence of debt bondage, why do these men continue to move? And, how do migrants come to terms with living as marginalized urban residents within a space that is portrayed as uncaring and extremely unequal? Through unpacking these puzzles, this talk distills key insights from Laavanya Kathiravelu‘s forthcoming book Migrant Dubai: Low Wage Workers and the Construction of a Global City. In doing so, it extends understandings of contemporary South-South migrations, urban subaltern subjectivities and informal social networks.
Laavanya Kathiravelu is a Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University and Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her research centers on contemporary migrations, especially in the “Global South” and processes of everyday urban diversity.