Picture Credit: Annu Jalais
Migrant workers’ lives, having been discussed almost exclusively in the binaries of precarity and resilience, are fetishised and minimised. That their lives must be documented in technicolour seems obvious but how do we truly represent the full lives of those who have been othered through neglect and denial? Migration Diaries is an exercise in memory which focuses on documenting how the COVID-19 crisis affected the lives of distress migrants. Using the present moment as a vantage point we reflect on past fault lines that exacerbated migrants' distress.
The crisis that followed pandemic related lockdowns were not just a failure of the government to understand migrant lives or public policy’s disconnect with their reality. Rather, it was a failure of public imagination. Despite the economy resting on the underpaid labour of scores of migrant workers, their lives remain invisible. Obscuring migrant workers' lives has become an effective reason for not granting them social security and denying them basic human rights. The shutting of borders and restrictions on mobility due to the pandemic meant migrant workers from coastal spaces across Indian Ocean countries, were stranded far from their coastal homes, often without access to paid labour and little access to social security.
Migrant workers have been moving between places historically. Yet, in the postcolonial world they are framed as illegitimate bodies. The lack of understanding of the lives of migrant workers has been reflected in the numerous news reports, academic as well as policy discourse. Their complex lives have been reduced to the binary templates of victimhood or capacity for endurance. This erasure of their existence outside this “crisis” mode is dehumanizing and alienating.
Locating itself in this gap, this project titled 'Migration Diaries' attempts to collect and tell stories of migrants' lives and worlds beyond the binaries of tragedy and resilience, through a revisting of their experiences of the pandemic. We hope to further contextualise their personal stories within broader academic, policy and popular discourses on distress migration.
This project furthers the objectives of the Southern Collective in multiple ways:
Bringing together individual stories from across the northern Indian Ocean region will allow us to examine effects of climate change & policy regimes on distress migration, through similarities & dissimilarities.
This project re-centres the knowledge and experiences of coastal and fishing communities, in keeping with the mission of the Southern Collective. It does this by visibilizing and amplyfing community narratives and voices.
It takes a transdisciplinary approach to interrogating dominant narratives about distress migrants.
It attempts to democratise knowledge production by co-creating content with impacted communities.