Hospitality within hostility: safe migration management in the Mekong

November 18, 2018

I will be chairing a panel on Knowledge, power and the governance of public policy tomorrow morning at the American Anthropology Association's annual conference in San Jose, where I will also present a paper on my work on safe migration governance in the Mekong region. 


Abstract of my paper below. 


Hospitality within hostility: safe migration management in the Mekong


How do hospitable policies unfold within a context of hostility? “Safe migration” is an emergent modality of migration governance advocated by United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations and even Governments in the Mekong region. Rather than attempting to prevent or deter migration, these programmes aim to safeguard migrant’s well-being. Yet, such programmes operate within a broader climate of general hostility toward migrants in the form of deportation, imprisonment and a range of other discriminatory practices. Based on fieldwork amongst aid programmes in the Mekong region, this paper reflects on how a politics of hospitality - glossed in policy terms as “safety” - is instrumentalized within a broader hostile environment for migrant workers. It is argued that the various tensions between hostility and hospitality render migration assistance precarious. Although counter-intentional effects are evident in policy practice migration assistance also resembles what may be labelled “the anthropology of the good”. Drawing on the anthropology of borders and brokering the paper consider the wider implications this has for the ethnography of migration governance.



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