Tag Archives: migrants

Written On The Body: Women, Migration and Borders

By Morag Rose, University of Sheffield

Morag Rose Geog Directions.jpg

Singapore Airport. Image credit: Flikr user Zsoolt CC-BY-NC 2.0



Much current popular discourse on immigration is often dominated by tabloid hysteria and dangerous political games. Concern about this has been voiced by many, including my former Sunday Times colleague, Liz Gerard, “The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” This polemic tends to dehumanise individuals and ignore the complex economic, political, social and emotional drivers behind the movement of people.  In her recent article in Area, Lucy Jackson seeks to explore the emotional impact of immigration and how it shapes real lives.

Jackson takes the body as the territory she explores, following the work of Longhurst (1994) who describes the body as the “geography closest in”. Jackson works with two different sets of women in Singapore; western expatriates and foreign domestic workers (even these commonly used words are loaded with assumptions). The two different groups of women have contrasting experiences of stigma and exclusion within Singapore and effectively live “separate but parallel lives”. However, despite their differences, the women share many commonalities and can all be described as economic migrants.

Singapore has actively encouraged temporary migrants but the participants were often discriminated against as outsiders. Their autonomy is limited by a range of social forces which range from comments in the street to being unable to open their own bank account or feeling restricted to certain areas. They create their own distinct personal territories which are both geographical and emotional. Food and clothing become very important as markers of identity, memory and community.  Both groups suffer ill-effects as a result of stigma and stereotyping, although their experiences are very different.  Borders operate and impact at many different scales and Jackson concludes “the border of the body is porous and migrant women actively practice and perform aspects of ‘border maintenance’ as a reaction to being excluded emotionally and physically from the social and cultural territory of the host society” (Jackson, 2016 p297).

Jackson’s work is attentive to individual, embodied experience and humanises the impact of social policies based on exclusion and othering. I fear this is a task that becomes ever more necessary for academics, activists and anyone concerned with civil liberties and freedom of movement.


60-world2 Gerard, L“The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” Subscribe Online

books_icon Jackson, L 2016  Experiencing Exclusion and Reacting to Stereotypes? Navigating Borders of the Migrant Body Area 2016 48.3 pp292-299 doi:10.1111/area.12146

books_icon Longhurst R 1994 The geography closest in – the body … the politics of pregnability Australian Geographical Studies 32214–223

The Social Geography of Youth

City Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland

by Benjamin Sacks

Naomi Bushin and Allen White’s excellent article in the June 2010 issue of Area analyses the critical impact of migration in conflicting zones through the spatial geography of youth. In the past decade the Republic of Ireland has become a popular destination for EU and non-EU immigrants alike; the result of extended economic growth. Irish society, however, remains caught between traditional conservatism and progressive globalization – a quagmire that has served to isolate children of immigrants. Bushin and White ‘illuminate the “tangled politics” of immigration procedures that are constructed by adults and imposed upon young people, often with little regard for opportunities for their participation’ [Naomi Bushin and Allen White, “Migration Politics in Ireland: Exploring the Impacts on Young People’s Geographies,” Area 42 no. 2 (June, 2010): p. 170].

Why is this is the case? Academic and professional attention  historically focused on the composition of migrant workers and their reasons for migrating to Ireland. As Bushin and White argue, many recent arrivals are migrant workers; short-term employees seeking higher wages than the equivalent in Eastern Europe or North Africa. But the children and teenagers who are brought along are often ignored, their experiences in Ireland undocumented. Area sheds new light on migrant youths’ travels and decisions.

In a survey of twenty-four students, fourteen returned to their native countries during holidays, in order to reconnect with family and friends. One student, Adam, “Said that his Mum is worried that he will lose his Lithuanian if he doesn’t have any Lithuanian friends” (Bushin and White, 173). Migrant youth struggle to find a socio-cultural balance between their desires to learn, make new friends, and ‘fit-in’, while parents and other adults strive to instill their children with the beliefs and languages of home.

Read ‘Migration Politics in Ireland’ here.

Learn more about Ireland and the immigration question in this BBC article.