Public Lecture: Dr. Alison Lee, Universidad de las Américas Puebla “¿Por qué sirvió migrar?” (Why did it serve to migrate?): Gender and Return Migration to Central Mexico

Studies of return migration tend to view it as the outcome of decisions made by rational actors or as a vehicle for the transfer of human capital to sending regions. An alternative approach, inspired by historical-structural theories, views return migration as one moment in a tumultuous process of workers alternatively absorbed and expelled from labor markets restructured in the transition from Fordist to flexible regimes of accumulation. Based on ethnographic research in Mexico and the United States, this paper traces the emergence, acceleration and contention of a transnational working class from Central Mexico beginning in the 1980s. Escaping the creative destruction of rural economies produced by neoliberal policies, men and women inserted into the industrial and service economies on the U.S. East Coast as flexible, precarious and “illegal” labor. The global financial crisis of 2007-08 weakened immigrant labor markets while increased border and interior surveillance ramped up deportations to Mexico diminishing the circular flow of undocumented migrants. The emerging gendered subjectivities of return migrants illuminate how they contend with the contradictory inclusion/exclusion of “illegality” in the context of declining opportunities to improve social and economic mobility through transnational migration. The tensions and conflicts that traverse family and community relationships reflect broader divisions and hierarchies within the Mexican migrant working class that have historically served to discipline labor and shore up accumulation.

May 20, 2019, 16h-18h

MSH, ground level, room 0015040 (2.07)

For more information please contact

Harlan Koff (harlan.koff (@)