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Friday Forum: Kurt W. Kuehne

April 1 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Lives in Limbo: Precarious Migrant Workers between Migration, Labor, and Criminal Law

Kurt W. Kuehne
Sociology PhD Candidate
University of Wisconsin-Madison

A remarkable statistic about Singapore is that 1 in 9 residents of the city-state is a low-wage, temporary migrant worker—authorized on a tenuous two-year contract to perform either construction/marine work (if a man), or live-in domestic work (if a woman). Though largely hidden away from the public eye, these precarious South and Southeast migrants are essential to the country’s economic and political model. However, while the Singaporean state aggressively oversees many facets of low-wage labor migration, subjecting foreign workers to careful surveillance and control, it selectively abdicates other oversight roles on the grounds that it is “not practical to regulate specific aspects” of the labor market. Where well-meaning protections do exist, they frequently backfire on workers who come forward with salary, injury, labor violation, or criminal violence claims. My 18+ months of ethnographic research show how uneven regulation and hazy enforcement mechanisms can trap temporary migrants between contradictory regimes of labor, migration, and criminal law. In this talk, I examine migrants’ lives in various states of juridical limbo.

This event is free and open to the public.


April 1
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
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206 Ingraham Hall
1155 Observatory Dr.
Madison, WI 53706 United States
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