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Accepted Paper:

"Filing for Refugee Status is Women's Work": Economies of Social Reproduction Amongst Romani Refugee Families in Canada  


Sara Swerdlyk (Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes the economies of work that have emerged amongst Hungarian Roma refugees in Canada. I examine how seeking asylum can be understood as a social reproduction strategy for Roma responding to the class relations, gendered dynamics, and citizenship regimes of contemporary capitalism.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyzes the economies of work that have emerged amongst Hungarian Roma seeking asylum in Canada. The paper is based on my ethnographic engagement with Roma who leave Hungary for Canada, a movement that has unfolded this past decade in response to the region's postsocialist deindustrialization and rise in far-right politics. I examine the life-sustaining economic strategies of Romani families in Toronto, as they navigate the class relations and citizenship regimes of contemporary capitalism. I explore how these strategies are embedded in gendered divisions of work in which the families' social reproduction - particularly the work of refugee claims - is coordinated by resourceful maternal figures. In capturing ethnographically and analyzing theoretically the "work beyond workplaces" of Hungarian Romani refugee families in Canada, I propose that the life decision to seek asylum can itself be understood as a resourceful strategy for Roma maneuvering the changing conditions wrought by capitalist processes. Ultimately in considering the implications of the economic strategies of Romani refugees for our analyses of work and capitalism, I argue that an expansion of the concept of labour invites a rethinking of the dichotomy between 'economic migrants' and 'political refugees.' The paper thus moves forward anthropological discussions on the relation between new forms of labour, the gendered dimensions of social reproduction, and the citizenship regimes that emerge under contemporary conditions of global capitalism, emphasizing the need for an anthropology of work that pays attention to the dynamics of citizenship and migration within everyday strategies of social reproduction.

Panel P100
Rethinking work, power and social reproduction in and beyond Europe [Anthropology of Labour Network]