Becoming a Migrant at Home: Subjectivation Processes in Migrant-Sending Countries Prior to Departure

Robyn Rodriguez and Helen Schwenken
Published in
Population, Space & Place, Volume 19 (2013), 375-388

Labour emigration is not merely the business of states and governmental policies, but comes with a range of wider societal practices. This includes the production of – and contestation over – the ‘ideal migrant subject’. This paper examines the complex interplay of actors and practices involved in migrant subject-making processes paying close attention to the pre-employment temporary labour migration process step by step from screening, recruitment, pre-departure training up to employment-matching. It asks how prospective migrants are transformed into ‘ideal’ migrant subjects. This contribution primarily draws from data from the Philippines and India. It is argued that migrants actually become migrants before they ever leave their home country: Labour-sending states set the regulatory frameworks and co-produce ‘ideal migrant subjects’ from which other social actors draw or contest. In contrast to most studies on the governance of labour migration, the authors highlight the role of subject formation as an important element of modern migration management. To the scholarship that actually takes into account subjectivation processes, this paper adds material both on the labour-sending state as well as on non-state actors. The paper, moreover, draws out subject-making from previous studies where it is less central and more implicit.