Accepted Paper:

A leisurely working life and standards of a 'good life' beyond money: the moral economy of an informal migration regime  


Romelia Calin

Paper short abstract:

My paper discusses the experiences of Central Asian labour migrants in the partially recognized Republic of Abkhazia, for whom a process of reassessment of standards of success and of a meaningful life opened up, especially in comparison with their previous migrations experiences in Russia.

Paper long abstract:

Based on fieldwork conducted between 2012-2014 with Central Asian labour migrants in the partially recognised Republic of Abkhazia, this paper investigates the connection between the moral economy of the informal regime of labour migration existing in Abkhazia at that time and the rising of a specific discourse of migration that develops specific understandings of succes and a meaningful life, in what I argue represents a new twist in the post-Soviet space. Informal networks influenced by Abkhazian local tradition of apsuara - an ethical system regulating relations between kin and non-kin, age groups, gender roles, hosts and guests - and the wide support networks of vzaimoposchh/mutual help - which proliferated on the backdrop of the country's post-war unrecognised independence - represented the practices through which labour migrants were integrated into Abkhazian society and economy, in the context of the absence of legal mechanisms for integration. These informal practices twisted the moral economy which migrants have developed during their previous migration experiences in Russia. While monetary gain remains important it loses its central status as the main achievement of migration. Conversely, a leisurely rhythm of the everyday life and experiences of well-being, such as a better climate, a less risk-loaded everyday life than in big Russian cities and easier access to health care and education for migrants' children based on patronage-like personal informal networks migrants get integrated into, feature prominently in migrants' descriptions of their lives in Abkhazia and as reasons for their choices to work there.

Panel P084
Migration and the imaginaries of 'good life' [ANTHROMOB]