Marriage, Migration and Gender


Edited by: Rajni Palriwala & Patricia Uberoi

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  • Other Volumes in the Series

    Volume 1: Transnational Migration and the Politics of Identity Editor: Meenakshi Thapan

    Volume 2: Poverty, Gender and Migration Editors: Sadhna Arya and Anupama Roy

    Volume 3: Gender, Conflict and Migration Editor: Navnita Chadha Behera

    Volume 4: Migrant Women and Work Editor: Anuja Agrawal


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    Series Introduction

    Migration and the movement it entails has always accompanied civilisation in every stage of its development. Historically, people have moved from one place to another either by force in terms of slavery, or for reasons of colonisation. Towards the late 19th and early 20th centuries, international migrations began to be prompted by industrialisation and urbanisation. A shift in base and settlement, prompted by varied reasons and sponsored by different agents, is thus not a new concept. Unlike the early migrations, which were largely directed towards the north and the west, migration today cannot be understood in linear terms but rather in terms of fluid movements within structural constraints and continuities, the movements being marked by turbulence and change and undertaken in multiple directions. In the contemporary context of globalisation, as has often been noted, the world is in a constant state of flux. People are presented with multiple worlds, images, things, persons, knowledge and information at the same time and at an ever-increasing pace. Moreover, the life cycle of each of these has been drastically shortened, such that the world we encounter is perceived and consumed largely in temporary terms. Change is then the only constant and the changes that characterise this external world we inhabit are internalised by us and have a significant impact on our lives and our perceptions about time and space. Individuals are forced in one way or the other to respond to the larger forces operating on them, since no one remains completely removed from the turmoil that surrounds them; the world having come closer, globalisation has facilitated the process of migration considering the forces of demand and supply, needs and gratifications, and the increased and easier possibility of movement and communication.

    In this process of movement, one undoubtedly leaves behind a familiar world to explore one's chances in an alien land. The process of migration may thus have a constraining effect on us not only in structural terms, of the choices made available, or cultural terms, but also in the sense in which it may include abuse and exploitation, and emotional and psychological distress. However, migration is largely undertaken with the positive hope of a better life in an unseen world. There is therefore a need to investigate the nuances and complexities entailed in this process and the way in which it impacts the lives and identities of the individual migrants in a world which is in constant flux and movement.

    Migration has earlier been explained in dual terms of the push and pull factors, i.e., the voluntarist perspective. It has also been understood from a structuralist perspective, whereby migration is mapped in dichotomous terms of centre-periphery, industrialised-peasant based, west and north-east and south. However, both perspectives have limitations since the former has understood it in simplistic terms of an individual's rationally calculated decision while the latter ended in economic determinism. In order to understand the phenomenon in all its complexity, a more holistic approach is required. Any theory of migration must account for it in terms of race, religion, nationality, sense of belonging and nostalgia. More significantly, much of the early literature on migration has been silent on the issue of ‘gender’ and there is thus a need to analyse the migration process and the differential experience of women and men in the context of a gendered world. Migration no doubt constitutes a complex subject of study, and an understanding based on the gender dimension serves to further enhance the complexity when we consider the multiple and heterogeneous backgrounds and experience of migrant women and the very complex category of ‘woman’ herself.

    Within this framework, the initiative to publish the five volumes on aspects of ‘Women and Migration in Asia’ emerged from the ongoing programme on Gender Perspectives on Asia located at the Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi. The first activity of this programme was the international conference on Women and Migration in Asia in December 2003. The conference was attended by participants from all over the world including representatives from Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Singapore, France, Italy, Bangladesh, the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, Philippines, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Trinidad and from within India.

    The five volumes are based on themes that emerged from the conference. It was proposed that the publication of these volumes would disseminate the deliberations, and their publication is a collective enterprise aimed at understanding the gender implications of migration processes, for women, within and across Asian societies and globally.

    Women and Migration in Asia

    Essentially, the endeavour to publish these five volumes is a critical response to migration theories that have failed to take into consideration the gender aspect thereby failing to account for the complex experience of migrant women. Migration is often perceived as being mainly a male movement, with women either being left behind or following their men folk as dependents. However, figures suggest that women have migrated in almost the same numbers as men, i.e., in the year 2000, there were 85 million female migrants as compared to the 90 million male migrants (Zlotnik as quoted in Jolly et al. 2003: 6). Women account for 46 per cent of the overall international migration from developing countries (ibid.).

    In addition, as compared to other continental regions, Asia has the maximum number of international migrants. There exist, however, disparities within the region in the sense that countries in Southeast Asia allow greater mobility for women owing to relatively more liberal attitudes than other South Asian and Arab countries. While men still form the majority of international migrants in Asia, there is an ever increasing number of women migrating in the region, as shown in Table 1:

    Table 1 Proportion of Female Migrants as a Percentage of Total International Migrants by the Region

    Despite the rising number of female migrants, women are not given equal importance as compared to men in migration, since they are still not perceived as equal actors worthy of being accounted for. According to the official records, the majority of women migrate legally merely as a part of family reunions. Those who migrate for employment purposes, thus find themselves doing so illegally, considering the rigid cultural and state ideologies and limiting visa policies and work permits regarding the movement of women, especially in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. Thus, while viewing women migrants as dependents, we may often ignore their individual economic contributions, and an analysis based solely on official figures would give an inadequate account of the actual migration flows pertaining to women.

    Women may migrate alone or along with their families or community. Their migration may be associational (for example, through marriage) or women may be independent migrants. Women may be compelled to migrate owing to their economic condition, in search of better work opportunities, or they may opt to migrate as an escape from an oppressive marriage and the traditional patriarchal norms. They may be driven by individual needs and aspirations, which most often coincide with those of the family, or migration may be structured and facilitated by the state. Whichever the case may be, migration has undeniably become a prominent reality in the modern world and the feminisation of migration is an even more significant although less explored aspect of this reality.

    Poverty and a search for employment have been the predominant propellants of the migration of people, which affords them the opportunity to explore their life chances. The decisions of women to migrate are informed by the twin forces of opportunities and constraints and are taken primarily by the family and, when taken independently, familial and cultural considerations have a great influence. Apart from the cultural and societal restrictions, structural factors like the demand for female labour and the trends in industry and agriculture, also affect their decision to migrate. In migration, women, owing to their structural position in society, have limited access to information and resources, which determines the differential experience of men and women on transit and entry. Women are more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse, lower wages and other forms of exploitation. Migration is thus undertaken with the aim of betterment, in terms of employment and economic gains, and as an escape from cultural and societal constraints in terms of achieving greater autonomy and independence. However, while it may afford them material gains, whether migration enables women to completely break away from the binding patriarchal and traditional norms remains questionable.

    Migration: Themes and the Volumes

    The volumes in the present series bring out the extent to which a gender perspective makes a contribution to migration theory and the manner in which it aids a comprehensive understanding of women's experience of migration, and how in the process, migration simultaneously emphasises certain gender related aspects pertaining to the specific contexts addressed by each volume. It is the migration flow of women in South Asia around which most of the papers in the five volumes are centred. At the same time, the comparative dimension is present in all the volumes that are essentially concerned with the Asian region but provide cross-cultural and regional diversity in their understanding of the issues under consideration. The five volumes are clearly also the result of an attempt to address the issues in an interdisciplinary perspective while being rooted in their particular disciplinary domains. This has in fact resulted in the volumes using very eclectic theoretical approaches as well as a focus on particular issues in their complexity and variety. It is also the case that the subject of study is rather complex and cannot be wholly dealt with in terms of a single volume. In order to understand and encompass the multiple realities and identities of migrant women, analyses from different perspectives and vantage points become important and necessary. All the volumes are held together around a set of common themes and each volume must be viewed as providing a significant insight into the larger picture and the series should be seen as a coherent whole.

    While migration viewed along the axis of gender is the overall focus of this series, the aim is to address the issue in terms of particular contexts like conflict, family and marriage, transnationalism, work, poverty, and to do justice to each. Thus, while all the volumes are interconnected owing to the common issues they address within the larger framework, each volume makes a valuable contribution in terms of their particular vantage point and the specific context they aim to address and emphasise.

    Situated in the larger context of globalisation and the ever increasing rate of cross-border movements thereof, the volumes serve to analyse the varied motivations that propel a woman to migrate, discovering the gap between the migrant woman's aspirations and expectations and the resulting reality. Most of the papers in the volumes point to the fact that the migrant woman's experience cannot be understood merely in terms of the material benefits that may accrue as a result of migration. The social structures and relations that inform the migrant's experience to a great extent also need to be considered for a holistic understanding of the complex experience of such women.

    The volumes find common ground in examining the difference between forced and voluntary migration in general (common to men and women), and serve to highlight the voluntary and independent aspect of women's migration, exploring the element of ‘choice’ and the extent of agency they have in framing their own experience. Woman's agency in different contexts is, in fact a critical component of the analyses across the volumes. The notion of ‘agency’ is thus problematised and examined in terms of personal experience, and in relation to the state and legal systems.

    The focus is on women on the move. Through their papers, the volumes question the assumption that women essentially migrate as dependents, their migration being seen as largely associational. Women even in the most empathetic discourse are thus at best represented as victims. The indifference towards or denial of the independent aspect of migration of women, in the dominant discourses, as has been argued across the five volumes, serves to ignore the dialectics between these women and the larger social structures and gender relations both in the home and host countries, in terms of the reciprocal impact that each has on the other. It is this dominant, official discourse which has predominated in various disciplinary approaches to migration within which women are inadequately represented and assumed to form one homogeneous category characterised, in traditional terms, as being submissive, dependent and largely confined to the household sphere. The volumes in this series provide an insight into the gap between the dominant narratives and those of the women themselves, attempting to reach reality as closely as possible.

    The collection of papers on ‘Transnational Migration and the Politics of Identity’ highlights the fact that migration today does not imply a complete break from the past; rather the migrant must be understood as inhabiting two worlds simultaneously. It explores the ways in which a migrant woman constructs her identity in an alien land, the problems she confronts and the strategies she deploys in making life in the host country more liveable. There is not only fiuidity in the experience and construction of identity but also in the manifold ways in which there is a ‘back-linking’ with the past, the country of origin, whether this is in terms of rituals, practices and values, relationships and family ties, or even in the ‘idea’ of the country that is carried to the new lands. At the same time, however, the migrant woman is constrained by the structures of the host country, its regulatory regimes and practices, and the limits imposed on her. The volume thus brings out the significance of the fluid nature of a migrant's identity without, however, ignoring the fact that this fluidity itself and her identity are regulated and structured to a certain extent by the state and other social institutions. Moreover, it examines the manner in which she negotiates with the larger structures and institutions such as the state, patriarchy, family, welfare institutions, etc., which impinge on her everyday personal experience, and how this struggle helps in defining and re-constructing her identity in different ways.

    In the context of internal migration, and even more in terms of transnational migration, the impact of state policies on the experience of the migrant becomes crucial and has been examined in most of the volumes in terms of the motives of the state in facilitating or curtailing migration outflow and inflow respectively, and the extent to which the state carries out its responsibilities. The volume on ‘Poverty, Gender and Migration’ focuses on the relationship between state policies and poverty, and the manner in which shifts in state policies bring about corresponding changes in patterns of migration. It explores how transnational migration has unfolded as a continuing process of exclusion and deprivation, whereby state policies have promoted migration, but on the other hand withdrawn from assuring protective support. Internal migrations too, in the light of the shifts and continuities, show a similar link between state policies, poverty and migration. The volume further argues that the experiences of poor women in migration are informed not only by poverty but also by the ideological dimensions of work expressed in women's concentration in jobs in the informal sector that are characterised by a sexual division of labour. The volume thus highlights the common theme that the larger structures affect the personal experience of migrants, and that there is a strong social, cultural and political context to migration by women. In the transnational context, not only do the social and structural categories of the recipient country affect the migrant's experience, the culture, tradition and customs of the home societies and the dominant familial discourse grounded in patriarchy also continue to inform the construction of the migrant woman's identity and experience.

    The volume on ‘Gender, Conflict and Migration’ attempts to break through the homogeneous ‘victimhood’ image, presented in the dominant discourse, of women migrants affected by war and conflict and seeks to explore the space for women's agency in these situations. It simultaneously highlights the suffering that women are subjected to in a conflict situation as well as the survival strategies adopted by them. The volume thus attempts to break the homogeneity of state discourses by bringing in women's experiences, which make it more complex. It raises a methodological issue in questioning the extent to which recording women's testimonies empowers them, or whether it is a traumatising experience, since it rips open the memories of their ‘traumatic pasts’. Further, the volume also examines the ethical dilemma of the researcher's subjective involvement in the ‘manipulation of their memories’ to serve their own ends and its impact on the researchers themselves. The volume seeks to contribute to the literature on migration in terms of the ‘cyclical’ character of most ‘conflict’ and ‘peace’ situations, the phenomenon of ‘internally displaced persons’ and to some extent, forced migrants as well.

    Migration may thus be either voluntary or forced, may involve individuals or families and even whole communities. One therefore needs to consider the life choices and circumstances of all categories of migrant women while simultaneously addressing the range of gender-specific types of work and their impact on women. Feminisation of the labour force gained momentum after the Second World War when immigration became a state sponsored project, undertaken in response to the labour shortage in the developing and industrialising countries which was to be filled by the Third World countries supplying labour. Women thus migrated to work in export processing zones in the Asian region, as domestic labour, and in the entertainment and sex industries. This highlights the ways in which women in different circumstances and owing to different reasons cross the boundaries of home and community to engage in work in completely different surroundings.

    The volume on ‘Migrant Women and Work’, by focusing upon women who migrate for work, provides indicators to the patterns that are discernible in the migration of women. The volume highlights the specific conditions under which they migrate, the preponderance of women in certain sectors of the labour market, specifically the reproductive and the care sector, the social, economic and political discrimination that particular groups of women are confronted with and the strategies they adopt to cope with such circumstances. It also makes an important contribution to the literature on migration in terms of studying gender and migration in the significant context of women who migrate alone or are the primary migrants, citing case studies of women who are ‘solo’ migrants. The volume also puts forth the idea that the structural ramifications of women's migration extend beyond the lives of migrant women themselves insofar as the labour of such women is an important factor in shaping the gender relations found in the societies of both the migrants and their hosts, thereby suggesting new ways of looking at issues such as gender equality, household division of labour and the state policies regarding welfare provisions.

    The collection of papers on ‘Marriage, Migration and Gender’ focuses on several aspects of marriage and migration in intra- and transnational contexts. It poses questions as to how the institution of marriage in and of itself may often effectively imply women's migration through the operation of ‘kinship’ rules of marriage and (post-marital) residence; how marriage can become a strategy to enable individuals and their families to migrate; the dynamics of matchmaking and marriage negotiations in the context of migration, including the transfer of resources through marriage payments; and, more broadly, how intra- and international migration affects the institution of marriage and wider relations within the family in the Asian context.

    The chapters in this volume contend that marriage in new contexts of migration may unravel euphemised and gendered practices and relationships. Migration may also impinge on the institution of marriage and transform familial relationships in a variety of ways. It may introduce new considerations into the process of matchmaking, reinforce or amplify traditional patterns of family and marriage and, in many cases, put the conjugal relationship and relationships between the generations under particularly severe strain, resulting in domestic violence and international custodial disputes. This raises the important question of policy orientations and commitments, in an international dimension, towards women migrants.

    Policy Implications

    Migration and the focus on women demands that the policies of the sending and receiving countries regarding migration be reviewed and restructured keeping in mind the migrant's interest. While there do exist laws aimed at safeguarding the interest of migrant women and their protection, they are either inadequate or lack effective implementation. In this light, the conference proposed that the distinction between voluntary and forced migration be emphasised such that the policies for each are based on the specific considerations of their particular context. Further, in order to effectively protect the rights and ensure the well-being of specific groups, their particular motivations for migration must be assessed.

    The complexity of the process, the multiple and heterogeneous backgrounds of the migrants, and the differential experiences of women and men make policy analysis difficult in this area. Moreover, the countries involved may have different policy goals, the concerns of one may not concern the other. While one country may encourage migration for the positive economic benefits in terms of remittances, the other may do so for acquiring cheap labour. In this sense, both the sending and receiving countries have their regulatory mechanisms to protect and enhance worker welfare. Women, like men, contribute through their labour and remittances; however, the restrictions on migration imposed by the two countries limit the benefits that migration may accrue both to the migrant as well as to the involved countries.

    Migration has been institutionalised to an extent, in terms of the employment brokers managing the entire process for the migrants; however, by curtailing movement, these governments, in a sense, serve to strengthen and perpetuate the exploitation and abuse of women. These women in turn migrate illegally, in search of work, and are thus left to the whims and fancies of these middlemen in transit and employers on arrival. In order to make migration beneficial for the two countries as well as the migrant woman, there is a need to rid the existing laws of their restrictive features and to incorporate in the policies protective measures that would ensure women their rights and welfare. Further, to reduce the power of the mediating agencies, the governments of these countries must devise policies to regulate and standardise the recruitment procedure so that these agencies cannot harass potential migrants (Labour Watch in Jolly et al. 2003).

    Considering the increased movement in the region, the sending and receiving states may be called upon to build networks between them and share the relevant information with each other and with the women, so as to ensure that migrants move in a well-planned environment whereby their experience is not left to fate and chance and they are aware of the migration channels in the receiving country. The governments of the host regions must endeavour to assist migrants in adjusting to the new world, by creating conditions approximate to those in their home nations. In order to help them cope with the social/psychological consequences of migration, the sense of dislocation, alienation and loss of a sense of belonging, the governments in both regions must have policies regarding certain provisions of skill training, for instance, in the language of the destination country, that would equip these women to find their way about in the new situation.

    The heterogeneous aspect of the migrant population and their backgrounds highlights the need for a group specific and country specific pproach, as that would view the migrant woman's problems more realistically, accounting for her particularities. A holistic approach towards migration is called for that would include, apart from the lower classes, the situation of the middle class migrant as well. The analysis must be based on a complete consideration of the specific context within which the migrant is located, in order to effectively formulate policies. Moreover, there is a need to focus attention on the manner in which women migrants are represented in the official discourse, their movement having been rendered invisible by law. These women in reality engage in negotiations with the larger institutions and the state; however, the latter by silencing them makes their agency negligible. While formulating policy, there is a need to therefore ensure a just and visible representation of women.

    MeenakshiThapanSeries Editor, Women and Migration in Asia
    Jolly, Susie, EmmaBell and LataNarayanswamy. 2003. Gender and Migration in Asia: Overview and Annotated Bibliography. No. 13. Bridge, Institute of Development Studies, UK.


    In this volume of chapters on different aspects of marriage and migration in the Asian region, we seek to mesh our long-standing sociological interest in family, kinship and gender with the phenomena of intra- and international migration. The volume derives from a panel on the theme of ‘Marriage and Migration’ in the international conference on ‘Women and Migration in Asia’, organised at the India International Centre, New Delhi, in December 2003 under the auspices of the Developing Countries Research Centre (DCRC), University of Delhi. Select proceedings of the panel have been published as a Special Issue of the Indian Journal of Gender Studies (Volume 12, Numbers 2 … 3, 2005). To these we have now added Kirti Singh's highly topical paper on child custody issues in the context of international migration (which was also presented in the conference panel), and a substantially reworked introductory essay. We are grateful to the IJGS editors, Malavika Karlekar and Leela Kasturi (Centre for Women's Development Studies, New Delhi) who encouraged this collaboration.

    We are grateful to the convenors of the other four panels of the ‘Women and Migration in Asia’ conference—Anuja Agrawal, Sadhna Arya, Navnita Chadha Behera, Anupama Roy and Meenakshi Thapan—whose encouragement, fellowship and criticism made our work on this volume both stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable. Above all, we thank Meenakshi herself who, as the dynamic organiser of the conference and Series Editor of the five volumes of proceedings, has brought this collective effort to fruition.

    The ‘Women and Migration in Asia’ Conference received generous funding from a number of sources—the University of Delhi, the Department of International Development (British High Commission), the Japan Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and the India International Centre—to all of whom we are extremely grateful. We would also like to thank the faculty, staff and library of the Institute of Economic Growth for institutional support; the faculty and staff of the Developing Countries Research Centre, especially Manoranjan Mohanty, Neera Chandhoke, Manindra Thakur and Ashish Ghosh; and colleagues in the Department of Sociology of the University of Delhi and the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. We are especially grateful to Swargajyoti Gohain at ICS for her cheerful assistance with the editing and preparation of the manuscript, as well as to Aradhya Bhardwaj at IEG who helped with the follow-up. Many other individuals have in various ways played a role in the making of this volume, among whom we would like to thank Mary John in particular. A Ford Foundation grant (No. 1035–1140) to the Institute of Chinese Studies enabled us to invite Delia Davin to lead a post-Conference Workshop on ‘Gender and the Political Economy of Domestic Service: Comparative Perspectives from India and China’, the proceedings of which have been issued as an ICS Occasional Study.

    Though we were ultimately unable to include in this volume all of the chapters presented in the ‘Marriage and Migration’ panel, we are grateful to all the participants for making this panel an extremely lively engagement. Finally, we express our special thanks to the 12 contributors to this volume from whom we have learnt so much and whom we now count among our friends.

  • About the Editors and Contributors

    The Editors

    Rajni Palriwala is Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Delhi. She has taught in various positions at the University of Delhi and at the University of Leiden. Her books and edited collections include Care, Culture and Citizenship: Revisiting the Politics of Welfare in the Netherlands (co-authored, 2005), Changing Kinship, Family, and Gender Relations in South Asia: Processes, Trends and Issues (1994), Shifting Circles of Support: Contextualising Kinship and Gender Relations in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (co-ed., 1996) and Structures and Strategies: Women, Work and Family in Asia (co-ed., 1990).

    Patricia Uberoi is Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. She was earlier Professor of Social Change and Development at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. In addition to her recently published book, Freedom and Destiny: Gender, Family and Popular Culture in India (2006), she has edited Family, Kinship and Marriage in India (1993), Social Reform, Sexuality and the State (1996), Tradition, Pluralism and Identity (co-ed., 1999) and Anthropology in the East: Founders of Indian Anthropology and Sociology (co-ed., 2007). From 1992 to 2006, she was Co-Editor of Contributions to Indian Sociology.

    The Contributors

    Margaret Abraham is Professor of Sociology and Special Advisor to the Provost for Diversity Initiatives at Hofstra University, New York. She is the Co-President of the International Sociological Association's Research Committee on Women and Society (2006–10). Her research is published in Gender & Society, Violence against Women and the Indian Journal of Gender Studies. Her book, Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence among South Asian Immigrants in the United States (Rutgers University Press) won the American Sociological Association: Section on Asian and Asian America Outstanding Book Award in 2002. She is the co-recipient of a Community Action Research Grant from the Spivack Program in Applied Social Research and Public Policy for a project on ‘NIMBYism’. Her current research also includes a study on call centres in India.

    Thérèse Blanchet was born in Québec, Canada. She studied anthropology at the Université de Montréal, the New School for Social Research in New York, and University College, London. After conducting fieldwork among the Inuit, north of Québec, she worked in Lesotho, Africa, before moving in 1979 to Bangladesh where she has been carrying out development-related research, mostly under the sponsorship of development agencies. For the last 12 years, her main fields of interest have been brothels, prostitution and slavery, and conceptualisations of childhood and personhood. Since 2000, with the Drishti Research Centre, she has undertaken a series of studies on female cross-border labour migration and trafficking in women. Besides a number of articles and unpublished study reports, she has published two books: Meanings and Rituals of Birth (1984) and Lost Innocence, Stolen Childhoods (1996), both with the University Press, Dhaka.

    Katharine Charsley is a Lecturer in the Anthropology of Migration at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA) and Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. She received her Ph.D from the University of Edinburgh in 2003 for research on transnational Pakistani marriages. She then held an ESRC postdoctoral research fellowship in Social Anthropology and South Asian Studies, and a lectureship in Sociology, both at the University of Edinburgh, before moving to Oxford to coordinate the Migration Studies M.Phil. programme.

    Delia Davin is Emeritus Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds, UK, where she was formerly head of the Department of East Asian Studies and of the Centre for Chinese Business and Development of the University of Leeds, UK. She has taught in the Beijing Broadcasting Institute, and was Lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of York. An authority on women, work, migration and gender relations in China, her publications include: Womanwork: Women and the Party in Revolutionary China (Clarendon Press, 1976); (co-author) China's One-child Family Policy (Macmillan, 1985); (co-ed.) Chinese Lives: An Oral History of Contemporary China (Penguin, 1989); Mao Zedong (Sutton Publishing, 1997) and Internal Migration in Contemporary China (Macmillan, 1999).

    Ester Gallo took her Ph.D in Anthropology, University of Sienna (2004) and has been Marie Curie visiting Ph.D student at the University of Sussex (2002–03). Her doctoral research was about the cultural construction of youth/old age and processes of generational change in Kerala. Her research interests include gender and migration, global domestic labour, kinship and transnational marriages, education and identity. She is currently Research Fellow at the Department of Anthropology—‘Uomo & Territorio’, at the University of Perugia, Italy. Her book, A Forbidden Past: Kinship, Memory and the Intergenerational Politics of the Family in Kerala, 1920–2000, is forthcoming with the Firenze University Press (Florence) and Munshiram Manoharlal (Delhi)

    Melody Chia-wen Lu is an Affiliated Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), the Netherlands. She has been an activist and worked in several Asian regional NGOs in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines on the issues of gender, migrants and sex work/ers. She is currently completing her Ph.D research on cross-border marriage migration between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China in Leiden University, the Netherlands. She is the co-editor of Cross-border Marriage Migration in East and Southeast Asia: Socio-demographic Patterns and Issues (University of Amsterdam Press, forthcoming).

    Kanwal Mand is Research Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. She is currently working on an AHRC funded project entitled ‘Home and Away: Experiences and Representations of South Asian Children’. Prior to this, she completed a three-year ESRC funded research project on transnational South Asian families and social capital. She received her Ph.D from the University of Sussex, focusing on the central role of women in the establishment and maintenance of transnational Sikh households in Britain, Tanzania and the Indian Punjab.

    Teresita C. del Rosario is currently a Capacity Building Expert for the Asian Development Bank. She has undertaken training and research for a multiyear capacity building programme to train government officials of the countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion, and more recently, for the Central Asian countries. Her present interests are in public sector reform and the social dimensions of regional cooperation. She holds a Ph.D in Sociology from Boston College and Masters degrees in Social Anthropology and Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government and Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences respectively.

    Ranjana Sheel is presently Reader in the Department of History at Banaras Hindu University, India. She has been Director of the University of Wisconsin College Year in India Programme, Varanasi, and worked at the Centre for Women's Studies and Development, Banaras Hindu University as well as at the BJK Institute of Buddhist and Asian Studies. She has been recipient of a Shastri Indo-Canadian Faculty Fellowship and of the senior fellowship of the Japan Foundation. Her major publications include The Political Economy of Dowry (Manohar, 1999). Her current research interest pertains to diasporic studies as well as comparative studies of women's political participation in India and Japan.

    Kirti Singh is an advocate and legal activist living in Delhi, currently a Member (Part-time) of the Law Commission of India. She has worked on feminist legal issues for the past 30 years and has specialised in family law, laws related to violence against women, and human rights law. In the past she has been the President of the Janwadi Mahila Samiti, Delhi State, and is also the current Convenor of the legal committee of the All India Democratic Women's Association. She has fought various landmark cases related to women's rights in India and has actively participated in drafting proposals for law reform in various areas related to women. She has also worked with the National Commission for Women in drafting and suggesting amendments in laws. She has written extensively on various legal issues including dowry, sexual assault, children's rights and Muslim and Hindu personal law in India.

    U. Kalpagam is Professor at the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. She is both an economist and an anthropologist. She has written extensively in the field of gender studies and on colonialism.

    She has published Labour and Gender (Sage Publications, 1994), and has co-edited four books on development issues. Currently she is engaged in an ethnographic project on Urban Mentalities.

    Xiang Biao is an Academic Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. He has conducted field research on migrants in China, India and Australia and is the author of Transcending Boundaries (Chinese, Sanlian Press, 2000; English, Brill Academic Publishers, 2005), Global ‘Bodyshopping’ (Princeton University Press, 2007), and over 30 papers in Chinese and English on migration and social change. Before joining Oxford he worked at the International Organisation for Migration and Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

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