Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies

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B3 The Production of Gender-Differentiating Migration Policies

Prof. Dr. Helen Schwenken

Helen Schwenken, Foto: Simone Reukauf

Osnabrück University

The research project analyses the gender-specific production of migration on the basis of migration policies that make a clear distinction between genders. Social negotiations of emigration restrictions for women in India and Nepal and their embedding in the wider migration infrastructure are analysed. It asks how dependent emigration restrictions are on discursive and political conjunctures as well as changing gender relations and what consequences these policies have for the production of migration and those affected by the policies.

More than in many regions of the world, emigration and its accompanying infrastructure in the form of recruitment and placement agencies, legal regulations, policies and bilateral agreements is omnipresent in South Asia. This migration infrastructure is designed to promote the - often temporary - mobility of labour. However, this does not apply to everyone to the same extent, and the distinction between the genders in particular plays a role: while labour migration is generally viewed positively and encouraged for men, specific exit restrictions often apply to women in Asia. According to these restrictions, women of a certain age (e.g. under 30 and over 50), with a relatively low level of formal education or a certain family status (e.g. with children under the age of 12) are not allowed to leave the country for labour migration, or only to certain countries. The instrument of gender-specific exit restrictions is also the subject of controversy and politicisation. They become particularly visible when restrictions are introduced, undermined or suspended again. Both the instrument of restrictions and their social significance require explanation.

The empirical subject of the project is policies and associated practices of emigration restrictions for women in India and Nepal. These two countries are analysed and compared, as the gendered emigration restrictions in Nepal are much more controversial than in India. By comparing and analysing documents, events, observations and interviews, the conditions and mechanisms of gender-specific migration restrictions are worked out as part of the respective migration infrastructure. The production of categorisations (who falls under the exit restrictions) is just as much a subject of analysis as the question of which events are politicised or depoliticised in which way, to what extent migration is morally charged and how it relates to scientific knowledge production on migration and global migration policies.

In the context of the overall questions of the CRC, the project deals with infrastructures of emigration, gender-specific aspects of the production of migration and the associated role of (scientific) knowledge.