• Sophia Dørffer Hvalkof
4. term, Global Refugee Studies, Master (Master Programme)
The primary aim of this study is to explore the concept ‘hierarchy of desirability’ which is taken as a proxy of the field of the postcolonial feminist perspective. The aim is to develop an understanding of what factors that are stressed, and what are obscured in the study of migrant workers from a postcolonial feminist theoretical standpoint. Three studies are used to assess the concept of ‘hierarchy of desirability’: Hans Lucht’s study of male migrant workers migrating from Ghana to Italy, Guy Standing’s exploration of the ‘the precariat’ and Arianne M. Gaetano’s examination of the internal rural to urban migration of young Chinese women.

In reading Lucht’s study, the theoretical lens highlights how migrant workers are marginalized by focusing on how raced social markers construct a hierarchical notion of ‘belonging’, but does not engage with their motivations for leaving and staying in precarious work which contributes to the notion of them as ‘victims’.In reading Standing’s study, the theoretical lens of ‘hierarchy of desirability’ allows for a critical engagement with the notion of ‘class’ as a defining factor for ‘precarious migrant workers’ by drawing on how difference matters, but simultaneously, the emphasis on difference obstructs what defines ‘precarious migrant workers’. In reading Gaetano, the lens is useful to view how the young rural women are constructed as ‘desired’ workers in the domestic work sector through a construction of a divide between the rural and urban population, and through ascribed gendered characteristics that are institutionalized, but the lens does not engage the women’s lives before and after migration which, similarly to Lucht, obstructs the notion of agency and thereby questions Gaetano’s argument of the young women’s empowerment.

Based on the interaction between the lens of ‘hierarchy of desirability’ and the chosen material, it is possible to argue that while the postcolonial feminist perspective offers valuable insight into how marginalization and discrimination is configured, it is necessary to pay attention to the inherent bias towards the contemporary labour market dynamics because this emphasizes migrant workers as exploited victims which obscures an understanding of how migrant workers find ways to cope and take advantage of the situation they are in.

Key words: Labor migration, migrant workers, ‘hierarchy of desirability’, precarious work, postcolonial feminist studies.
Publication date2019
ID: 304809535