Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2021 - 7/31/2021

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

Safe Migration: Documentation, Debt and Development in Southeast Asia

FAIN: FT-278978-21

Maryann Bylander
Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR 97219-8091)

Research and writing a book about governmental and non-governmental initiatives on migration between Cambodia and Thailand, and the impact on the migrants themselves.

Safe Migration is an ethnography of migration and development in Southeast Asia. Based on six months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Thailand and Cambodia, and informed by over a decade of humanistic research in migrant sending communities, this book explores the intensifying efforts to order, regulate, and manage migration in Southeast Asia. The book has two central goals: first, it aims to complicate development discourses that conflate regular migration with safe migration. In doing so, it also draws attention to changing migration dynamics in the Global South, and describe how intensified entanglements with formal institutions (states, NGOs, and financial institutions) can generate new costs and risks for both migrants and their families at home. NEH funding will be used to provide support for two months of writing, allowing me time to complete a finalized manuscript of the book.

Associated Products

The trade-offs of legal status: regularization and the production of precarious documents in Southeast Asia (Article)
Title: The trade-offs of legal status: regularization and the production of precarious documents in Southeast Asia
Author: Bylander, Maryann
Abstract: In the Global South, states are increasingly using regularization programs as a means of managing migrant populations. These regularization programs are often described as progressive, in that they seek to bring migrants into state systems of rights and protections. Yet they tend to occur alongside processes of securitization aimed at expanding greater state control over temporary migrant populations. This article draws on multi-sited ethnographic data from Thailand to highlight the sharp end of legal status: the costs, debts, risks, and unfreedoms it can produce for migrant workers. To do so, I draw on fieldwork undertaken during Thailand’s 2017–2018 regularization campaign, where unauthorised Cambodian migrants were given the opportunity to regularize their status by obtaining passports and two-year work visas/permits. Through interviews with Cambodians seeking to regularize their status, I explore how regularization produces documents of precarity: documents that both are insecure and may produce risk and insecurity for migrants. While regularization offers migrants legal status, it also puts them into new, asymmetrical relationships with states, brokers, employers, and financial institutions. These findings illustrate how contexts of reception shape the meaning of legal status, and highlight how regularization campaigns can be entangled with efforts to control and restrict migrants.
Year: 2023
Primary URL:
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Publisher: Taylor & Francis