Working men: Bangladeshi migrants in the global labour force

by Junjia Ye

Working Papers WP 12-13
July 2012
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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In this paper, I illustrate that Bangladeshi male migrants are now part of a vast pool of inexpensive and mobile workers that are maintained as such because of powerful structures of inequality that require the extraction of their labour at both the global and local scale. These low-waged migrants’ occupy particular positions in Singapore’s segmented labour market – a point which remains the backdrop of my argument. Drawing upon migrants’ own narratives, I examine how Bangladeshi men make sense of their labour migration to Singapore, particularly after they fall out of work. With reference to Bourdieu’s notions of class and habitus, I demonstrate that their responses are not only based upon instrumental calculation but are also powerfully shaped by a complex set of normative gendered formations which can further constrain their voices. I argue here that these masculine normativities cannot only be reduced to patriarchy but further, become a means for the reproduction of class position.

Junjia Ye is a postdoctoral research fellow in Urban Geography at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. She is presently part of the GLOBALDIVERCITIES project. She received her PhD from the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia in 2011.