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Precarious LivesForced labour, exploitation and asylum$
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Hannah Lewis, Peter Dwyer, Stuart Hodkinson, and Louise Waite

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447306900

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447306900.001.0001

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Conceptualising hyper-precarious migrant lives: from forced labour to unfreedom

Conceptualising hyper-precarious migrant lives: from forced labour to unfreedom

Chapter:
(p.143) 6 Conceptualising hyper-precarious migrant lives: from forced labour to unfreedom
Source:
Precarious Lives
Author(s):

Hannah Lewis

Peter Dwyer

Stuart Hodkinson

Louise Waite

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447306900.003.0006

In Chapter 6 we reflectively stand back from these 30 human stories to critically interrogate the very meaning and relevance of forced labour for the precarious migrant labour experience as the conceptual basis for tackling such exploitation. We critique the ILO approach to defining and tackling forced labour and argue that discussing such phenomena in rigid binaries (such as free/forced) is unhelpful. Instead we highlight continuums and processes in migrant labour experiences and in line with recent work (e.g. Skrivankova, 2010) we suggest that a continuum approach built around the concept of ‘unfreedom’ is the best way to ensure that the diversity of migrants’ experiences of forced labour are considered. We further posit the ‘hyper-precarity trap’ as an analytical device to show how racialised and gendered migration, work and welfare regimes, and neoliberalism combine to create the ‘demand and supply’ of migrant forced labourers who are subject to multidimensional insecurity and exploitation. We argue that attempts to portray contemporary ‘slavery’, ‘trafficking’ or ‘forced labour’ as exceptional phenomenon undermines an understanding of how such exploitation emanates from broader structural inequalities.

Keywords:   hyper-precarity, unfreedom, slavery, forced labour, migration

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