Category Archives: Publications

Singaporean and British transmigrants in China and the cultural politics of ‘contact zones’

Yeoh, B.S.A. and Willis, K. Singaporean and British transmigrants in China and the cultural politics of ‘contact zones’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 269-285.

The online version of this article can be found at:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1369183042000339927#.UwQdAvmSx9U

The international migration of professional workers has increased in scope over the past 20 years as skilled workers are needed when companies’ activities cross national borders. While this trend has been recognised from an economic perspective, much less has been researched from a social and cultural angle. Using case studies of British and Singaporean migration to China, this paper employs a comparative frame to examine the effect of cultural differences—both in terms of business culture as well as social norms regarding ethnicity and gender—on the dynamics of the ‘contact zones’ emerging in various cities in China, including the cosmopolitan cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong, the Chinese capital city of Beijing, as well as the industrial townships of Suzhou, Wuxi and Guangzhou. As sites which invoke the spatial and temporal copresence of subjects previously separated by geographic and historical disjunctures, and whose trajectories now intersect, ‘contact zones’ (as defined by Mary Pratt in the context of colonial encounters) are frontiers where ‘difference’ is constantly encountered and negotiated. Given very different ethno-historical linkages traced by Singaporeans and Britons to China and as a result a divergence of cultural imaginings about ‘China’, it is not unexpected that the two groups of transmigrants enact different ways of encountering life in China. The paper explores the differential politics of the Singaporean and British presences in China around three stereotypical images of the foreigner in China—the culturalist, the colonialist and the imperialist.

Transnational families and their children’s education: China’s ‘study mothers’ in Singapore.

Huang, S. and B.S.A. Yeoh, 2005. Transnational families and their children’s education: China’s ‘study mothers’ in Singapore. Global Networks. Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 379-400.

The online version of this article can be found at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0374.2005.00125.x/abstract

For many middle-income Asian families from the region’s less developed countries, the education of children in a more developed country has become a major ‘project’ requiring the transnational relocation of one or more members of the family. As an aspiring global education hub, Singapore has been a recipient of many international students. In our article we examine the case of ‘study mothers’ from the People’s Republic of China who accompany their children to Singapore during the course of the latter’s study, while leaving their spouses at home. In the analysis we demonstrate that the transnational ‘project of education’ for these young Asian children hinges crucially on the notion and realization of the ‘sacrificial mother’. Unlike the women in elite Chinese transnational families who enter western countries as potential citizens and are able to regain their relatively privileged lifestyles after a period of transition, the study mothers are admitted to, and remain in, Singapore as transient sojourners whose lives are characterized by continuing challenges and fluidity.

The Place of Vietnamese Marriage Migrants in Singapore: social reproduction, social ‘problems’ and social protection.

Yeoh, B.S.A., H.L. Chee and G.H.Y. Baey, 2013. The Place of Vietnamese Marriage Migrants in Singapore: social reproduction, social ‘problems’ and social protection. Third World Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 10, pp. 1927-1941.

The online version of this article can be found at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01436597.2013.851959#.UrJfGfQW0Xs.

While the literature on ‘global care chains’ has focused on the international transfer of paid reproductive labour in the form of domestic service and care work, a parallel trend takes the form of women marriage migrants, who perform unpaid labour to maintain households and reproduce the next generation. Drawing on our work with commercially matched Vietnamese marriage migrants in Singapore, we analyse the existing immigration–citizenship regime to examine how these marriage migrants are positioned within the family and nation-state as dependants of Singaporean men with no rights to work, residency or citizenship of their own. Incipient discussions on marriage migrants in civil society discourse have tended to follow a ‘social problems’ template, requiring legislative support and service provisioning to assist vulnerable women. We argue for the need to adopt an expansive approach to social protection issues, depending not on any one single source—the state, civil society and the family—but on government action to ensure that these complement one another and strengthen safety nets for the marriage migrant.

Securing a Better Living Environment for Left-Behind Children: Implications and Challenges for Policies

C.F.T. Lam, M. Ee, L.A. Hoang, and Yeoh, B.S.A., 2013. Securing a Better Living Environment for Left-Behind Children: Implications and Challenges for Policies. Asian and Pacific Migration Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 421-446.

The online version of this article can be found at: http://www.smc.org.ph/apmj/index.php?comp=com_abstract&type=topic&id=541

Migration is an increasingly significant driver of transformations in family configurations and caregiving practices as well as living arrangements. The sustainability of geographically-split family formations is dependent on several factors, including the presence and strength of care support networks among migrants and their left-behind families, access to communication infrastructure and the stability of the families’ financial resources. Drawing on both a selective review of relevant academic literature as well as key findings from the CHAMPSEA Project, the article first examines the effects of these three factors on the well-being of migrants’ left-behind family members,especially children. The article also considers major implications of the project’s findings, as well as possible challenges for migration and development policies. One area of concern for migration and development policy arising from our research findings is the need to provide better support for left-behind caregivers or carers who are substituting for the absent migrant in childcare and domestic work but who may also need care and support themselves. Another area relates to the need to improve communication infrastructure to help migrants and their families maintain their relationships across transnational spaces; while a third lies with the importance of minimizing migrant families’ economic stress stemming from the cycle of debts resulting from exorbitant broker fees and the mismanagement of remittances. By acknowledging both the social and economic costs of international labor migration on families, governments of labor-sending countries can create a more effective legal and institutional framework as well as design suitable supporting mechanisms for left-behind families. There is then a stronger possibility that migration can become a sustainable development strategy for transnational families in South-East Asia.

Breadwinning wives and ‘left behind’ husbands: men and masculinities in the Vietnamese transnational family

Hoang, L.A. and B.S.A Yeoh, 2011. Breadwinning wives and ‘left behind’ husbands: men and masculinities in the Vietnamese transnational family. Gender and Society, Vol. 25, No. 6, pp. 717-739.

The online version of this article can be found at:
http://gas.sagepub.com/content/25/6/717.abstract

Abstract

This article explores an aspect of women’s transnational labor migration that has been understudied in many labor-sending countries: how men experience shifts in the household labor division triggered by women’s migration. In so doing, we shed light on the diverse ways notions of masculinity and gender identities are being reworked and renegotiated in the transnational family. Drawing on qualitative data collected from in-depth interviews with carers of left-behind children in Northern Vietnam, we show how men are confronted with the need to take on child care duties, which have traditionally been ascribed to women, while at the same time being under considerable pressure to live up to locally accepted masculinity ideals. We provide interesting insights into the changing family structures and dynamics in Vietnamese society where patriarchal norms continue to exert significant influence on different facets of life.

Keywords
Transnational labor migration, gender, masculinities, fatherhood, Vietnam

Transnational Migration and Women on the Move in Southeast Asia

Yeoh, B.S.A. 2008. Transnational Migration and Women on the Move in Southeast Asia. Canadian Diversity, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 47-50.

The online version of this article can be found at:
http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/37582248/transnational-migration-women-move-southeast-asia

Abstract

Globalization processes have both accelerated the pace of international migration and diversified its streams, which this article specifically investigates by exploring the developmental impacts of feminized migration (with)in Southeast Asia. Through the twin-contexts of family and nation-state, it advocates a keener awareness of the gendered Inequities involved in migration and calls for greater advocacy work.

Keywords
Globalization, Transnationalism, Women migrant labour, Gender inequality, Emigration and immigration

Commercially Arranged Marriage and the Negotiation of Citizenship Rights among Vietnamese Marriage Migrants in Multiracial Singapore

Yeoh, B.S.A., H.L. Chee and T.K.D. Vu, 2012. Commercially Arranged Marriage and the Negotiation of Citizenship Rights among Vietnamese Marriage Migrants in Multiracial Singapore. Asian Ethnicity, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 139-156.

The online version of this article can be found at:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14631369.2012.759746#.UowiWMQy0Ug

Abstract

Globalization and increased mobilities have multiplied cross-border transactions not only in the economic sphere but have also a major impact on human relationships of intimacy. This can be seen in the increased volume of differently mediated forms of international marriage, not just straddling ‘east’ and ‘west’, but within Asia and across different ethnicities and nationalities. International marriage raises a host of social issues for countries of origin and destination, including challenges relating to the citizenship status and rights of the marriage migrant. This paper examines the negotiation of citizenship rights in the case of commercially matched marriage migrants – namely Vietnamese women who marry Singaporean men and migrate to Singapore as ‘foreign brides’. While they are folded into the ‘family’ – what is often thought of as the basic building block of the nation in Asian societies – they are not necessarily accorded full incorporation into the ‘nation’ despite Singapore’s claims to multiculturalism. This is particularly salient at a point when cross-nationality, cross-ethnicity marriages between Singapore citizens and non-citizens are on the increase, accounting for over a third of marriages registered in Singapore in recent years. Vietnamese women who marry Singaporeans are positioned within the nation-state’s citizenship regime as dependents of Singaporean men, having to rely on the legitimacy of the marriage relationship as well as the whims of their husbands in negotiating their rights vis-à-vis the Singapore state. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic work with 20 Vietnamese women who are commercially matched marriage migrants, the paper first focuses on the vulnerable positions these women find themselves, particularly given difficulties in forging their own support networks as well as weaknesses of the civil society sector in what has been called an ‘illiberal democracy’ characterized by a political culture of ‘non-resistance’. The paper then goes on to examine the way they negotiate rights to residency/citizenship, work and children within webs of asymmetrical power relations within the family and the nation-state. We draw on our findings to show that citizenship is ‘a terrain of struggle’ within a multicultural nation-state shaped by social ideologies of gender, race and class and negotiated on an everyday basis within spheres of family intimacy.

Keywords
Marriage migration, citizenship, multiculturalism, family, nation-state, civil society

The difference gender makes: State policy and contract migrant workers in Singapore.

Huang, S. and B.S.A Yeoh, 2003. The difference gender makes: State policy and contract migrant workers in Singapore. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1-2, pp. 75-98.

The online version of this article can be found at:
http://www.smc.org.ph/apmj/index.php?comp=com_abstract&type=topic&id=237

Abstract

The increasing numbers of men and women involved in international labor migration at all skill levels have raised crucial policy issues and concerns for both sending and receiving countries, not only in the area of migration and employment legislation, but also in terms of how migrant workers are positioned within the larger society. Using the case of Singapore, we adopt a gendered analysis to examine the central role of state policies and practices in the incorporation vis-à-vis non-incorporation of male versus female contract migrant workers into Singapore society, in terms of their differential access to legal protection; the differential effects of state medical surveillance of their bodies; the different ways in which their ‘skills’ are valorized; as well as differences in the efforts invested into the social control of these workers in public space.

A clean bill of health?: Filipinas as domestic workers in Singapore.

Iyer, A, T.W. Devasahayam and B.S.A. Yeoh, 2004. A clean bill of health?: Filipinas as domestic workers in Singapore. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 11-38.

The online version of this article can be found at:
http://www.smc.org.ph/apmj/index.php?comp=com_abstract&type=topic&id=218

Abstract

This paper describes foreign domestic workers’ (FDWs) vulnerability in Singapore. Due to the lack of regulatory laws mandating employers to pay health care costs and FDW ineligibility for national plans given their transient contract labor status, FDWs depend on employer generosity to provide for this need. Presently, the state’s interest only includes particular aspects of FDW “health.” The argument here is that the discourse of perceiving FDWs as sexual ‘bodies’ and transmitters of other infectious diseases is a metaphor for how the state perceives them – useful to Singapore for economic gains as long as they do not bring on costs.

‘Singapore unlimited’?:Transnational elites and negotiations of social identity in the regionalization process.

Yeoh, B.S.A and K. Willis, 2005. ‘Singapore unlimited’?:Transnational elites and negotiations of social identity in the regionalization process. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1-2, pp. 71-95.

The online version of this article can be found at:
http://www.smc.org.ph/apmj/index.php?comp=com_abstract&type=topic&id=192

Abstract

Drawing on the burgeoning literature on globalization, international migration and the deterritorialization of social identity in transcultural contexts, we examine the diasporic designs of the Singapore state in its ‘go-regional’ push and compare this with individual (re)negotiations of social identity as a result of relocation in China. While the state has exhorted the value of configuring a Singaporean diasporic identity which facilitates cultural penetration of the Chinese nation through network capitalism and ethnic entrepreneurship and by projecting Singapore’s brand name on foreign shores, identity negotiations of individual citizens across transnational space appears to be both ‘strategic’ and ‘sticky.’