Accepted paper:

'Nowhere to Go': Rural to Rural Agriculture Work Migration from Thailand to Israel

Authors:

Shahar Shoham (The Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Despite the massive agriculture work migration of Thais to Israel, no substantive Thai community has developed. The migration narratives of one Thai village community demonstrate how although hundreds of its members have been migrating to Israel, it is imagined only in relation to the realm of work.

Paper long abstract:

The people of Ban Phak Khad, a Thai rural agricultural-based village community in Isaan region, have been migrating in there hundreds to Israel to work as agriculture farm workers for the last three decades. Many of them have been migrating to multiple destinations, in some cases across few generations. Isaan is Thailand's central sending internal and international out migration region, placed in the bottom of Thailand's socio-economic hierarchies, constructed as the 'rural others' and 'backwards villagers', in opposition to the 'developed modern' urban elite. While working in rural communities in Israel, Thais are subjected to highly restrictive and State regulated policies specially designed for non-Jewish labourers, which render them vulnerable to exploitation and to physical and social isolation within the farms where they live and work. Demonstrated through ethnography of hindsight migration narratives of former migrants of Ban Phak Khad and their community members, I argue that despite the massive work migration, no substantive Thai community has developed in Israel, due to the limitations Thais face as a result of the social, political and economic policies and structures in Israel. As a result the transmitted knowledge, stories and memories, whether verbal, through photos, or objects which came back from Israel to the village, all contribute to the imagination of Israel in relation to the realm of work. Thus it is imagined as one out of few global markets where they can work rather than as an aspirational place for immigration, settling down, or a new place to explore and travel.

panel P146
Moving from, moving to, moving in the countryside: ethnographic perspectives on rural mobilities [SIEF panel]