Accepted paper:

Not so new laborers: Philippine migration and historical political economy


Pauline Gardiner Barber (Dalhousie)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that "neoliberalism" and "globalization" (after Appadurai) have become mystifying tropes in anthropologies of migration. Their analytical relevance will be tested in the case of Philippine migration with reference to Marx's insights about the volatility of capital and labor.

Paper long abstract:

Hundreds of millions of migrants worldwide live and work under precarious conditions, often without recourse to employment standards, and social and political rights afforded non-migrant co-workers. Some observers note that the conditions confronted by many migrants are not unlike those experienced by migrant workers in previous centuries. Yet others, proponents of the present as the "age of migration", argue for the uniqueness of contemporary migration in its global sweep and neoliberal causation. This paper commences from the proposition that both "neoliberalism" and "globalization" (after Appadurai) have become tropes in the anthropological migration literature, working as mystifying 'place fillers'. As such, they substitute for a rigorous accounting of historical political economy and its contributions to contemporary migration policies, practices, and politics. The analytical relevance of these constructs will here be tested with reference to Philippine migration. Theoretically the paper engages with Marx's insights that to endure, capitalism requires ever greater efficiencies for the extraction of wealth. Localized economic upheavals provide a vehicle for capital accumulation by multiple means, including displacement and sometimes dispossession of various populations. While it has become fashionable to attribute such disruptions of livelihoods and ways of living to neoliberalism, two decades ago globalization served the same purpose; to what effect?

panel P022
Reconsidering anthropologies of neoliberalism and globalization: historical conjuncture and narratives of rupture (Commission on Global Transformations and Marxian Anthropology)