IIR Colloquium: The Migration-Development Regime

How Class Shapes Indian Emigration

Wednesday, March 8, 2023 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM EST
Commerce Building, Room 2006 or online via Zoom Meeting

IIR Colloquium: The Migration-Development Regime

The Institute for Immigration Research welcomes you to register for a hybrid conversation with Rina Agarwala, professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. You are welcome to join the conversation in person at the GMU Commerce Building, Room 2006 or via Zoom Meeting.

How can we explain the causes and effects of global migration from the perspective of sending states and migrants themselves? The Migration and Development Regime introduces a novel analytical framework to help answer this question in India, the world’s largest emigrant exporter and the world’s largest remittance-receiving country.  Drawing on an archival analysis of Indian government documents, a new data base of Indian migrants’ transnational organizations, and unique interviews with poor and elite Indian emigrants, recruiters, and government officials, this book exposes the vital role the Indian state, as well as its poor and elite emigrants, have long played in forging and legitimizing class inequalities within India through their management of international emigration.  Since the 1800s, the Indian state has differentially used poor and elite emigrants to accelerate domestic economic growth at the cost of class inequalities, while still retaining political legitimacy. At times, the Indian state has forbidden emigration, at other times it has promoted it.  At times, Indian emigrants have brought substantial material inflows, at other times, they have brought new ideas to support new development agendas within India.  But throughout, Indian emigration practices have deepened class inequalities by imposing different regulations, acquiring different benefits from different classes of emigrants, and making new class pacts--all while remaining invisible in political and academic discussions on Indian development.  On the flip side, since the early 1900s, poor and elite emigrants have resisted and re-shaped Indian development in response to state migration practices.  By taking this long and class-based view, this book recasts contemporary migration not simply as a problematic function of “neoliberalism” or as a development panacea for sending countries, but as a long and dynamic historical process that sending states and migrants have long tried to manage.  In doing so, it re-defines the primary problems of migration, exposes the material and ideological impact that migration has on sending state development, and isolates what is truly novel about contemporary migration. 

Rina Agarwala is Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. Agarwala publishes and lectures on international development, labor, migration, gender, social movements, and Indian politics.  Agarwala is the author of Informal Labor, Formal Politics and Dignified Discontent in India (Cambridge, 2013) and the co-editor of Whatever Happened to Class? Reflections from South Asia (Routledge, 2008). Her most recent book is The Migration-Development Regime: How Class Shapes Indian Emigration (Oxford, 2022).  She has also worked at the United Nations Development Program in China, the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India, and Women’s World Banking in New York.

Rina Agarwal

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