'We are in the process'. Economies of waiting and the exploitation of hope among aspiring irregular migrants in Nepal
Ina Zharkevich (Oxford University)
Paper short abstract:
Based on research with irregular migrants in Nepal, who spend months or years before reaching their destination countries, this paper explores the migrants' experience of being stuck, i.e. 'being in the process', and the 'economy of waiting' as a key technology of the migration industry in Nepal.
Paper long abstract:
'We are in the process' was the phrase often used by my Nepali interlocutors, soon to be migrants, who were waiting for their departure abroad, often to the Gulf States and, more recently, to the so-called 'big countries' the US, Japan or one of the EU states. 'Being in the process', i.e. essentially 'being stuck' in a state of limbo with migrants lives being put on hold for the duration of the journey, could take anywhere from several months, when one was going to the Gulf or Malaysia, to several years, when one embarked on an irregular perilous journey via South American route to the US. Based on conversations with (ir)regular migrants whose journeys failed and also those who successfully reached their 'final' destinations, this paper explores the experience of being stuck on the one hand and the 'economy of waiting' as a key technology of the migration industry in Nepal, on the other. It suggests that the 'economy of waiting' is used by the migration industry actors in Nepal as a deliberate technique of controlling aspiring migrants' movement, exploiting their desires and hopes, and extracting surplus value, turning the migration industry in Nepal into a major system of profiteering and forcing many of the aspiring migrants into a situation of grave debt - with their lives put on hold all over again until the debt is repaid, even when their dreams of physical mobility are fulfilled.
Being stuck. Stillness in times of mobility