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This talk presents a concrete example of how precarities are produced, experienced, and resisted in an Asian context.

Detail Summary
Date 19 June 2018
Time 16:00 - 17:00

It provides a critical analysis of the connections between global flows of people and capital, national pressures to modernize, and the experiences of women migrant workers, by examining new forms of governmental migratory surveillance.

In particular, I ask why and how the new electronic and biometric passport system, introduced as a pilot project by the Indonesian Consulate in Hong Kong in 2015 to protect migrant workers, has resulted in the incarceration of migrant workers. The project was justified by government officials in terms of care and control of migrant worker citizens, and it reflects the Indonesian state’s desire to create modernity and the “legibility” of its citizenry (James Scott).

An ethnographic examination of the implementation of the new passport policy reveals how “caring policies” entail control, social tensions, and opportunities for creative resistance among migrant worker activists. The talk illustrates the contradictions of care and control and the changing meaning of identities and documentation within the context of global migration, neoliberal governmentality, and Asian flows of bodies and capital.

About Nicole Constable

Nicole Constable is a Professor of Anthropology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Research Professor at the University Center for International Studies. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989.  She is a sociocultural anthropologist whose primary research focus is gendered migration in and from Asia. She is also very interested in different modes of ethnographic and anthropological writing.  Her main geographical research areas are Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. Her topical interests include migration and mobilities; intimate labor; gender and sexuality; and precarious citizenship and the state. Nicole Constable’s most recent ethnographic monographs reflect her interest and expertise in gender and migration.

Dr. Constable has been interested in new and experimental forms of ethnographic writing and representation. Her most recent project examines the role of documents – especially passports – and their roles in migration and mobility. She ethnographically explores the “flexibility” of migratory documents, and the meanings, causes, effects, and responses to the Indonesian government’s introduction of e-passports and biometric identification. Considering multiple perspectives of workers, activists, and government personnel, she asks how documents and new governmental biotechniques configure borders, serve as a form of surveillance and control, and shape migrant workers’ experiences. 


16.00-16.05    Introduction by Dr. Shanshan Lan

16.05-17.00    Wertheim lecture by Prof. Nicole Constable

17:00-18.00    Borrel/reception


There are limited seats available, please register in advance via email:, or telephone +31 (0) 20 525 2262.


Oudezijds Voorburgwal 229 - 231
1012 EZ Amsterdam