Week 5 – Asian Diasporas in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Historical Overview

This article, although an introduction, reminds us of two important issues. First, to understand Latin America, we need to look across the Pacific, and not just the Atlantic, as many of us are taught. Second, globalization is a much older phenomenon than many of us are used to.

History, they say does not repeat itself, and although at times it may look that way, there are many similarities as there are differences; globalization is one such phenomenon. Today, we think of globalization as a contemporary issue that began in the 1960s, and took full force in the 1990s with the fall of the Soviet Union. If we look back however, globalization has expanded and retrenched our world twice before beginning in 1565, when the Acapulco-Manila Galleon first linked the globe, then roughly around the 1850s until the outbreak of World War I.

The article sheds light on a centuries old migration that has been omitted, excluded, or forgotten. It introduces Asian migration to the Americas, which like most migrations, ebb and flow throughout different time periods and geographies.  And although the article only surveys Asian migration, it serves as a good prelude to later readings on Japanese and Chinese communities.

It is interesting to see a glimpse of migration during the globalization of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. After the abolition of slavery, which in itself was gradual, there was still a need for cheap labour by different empires and emerging nation-states to work the vast plantations in different parts of the globe. Moreover, the gold rush taking place in the United States, Australia, Canada, Peru, etc. made the acquiring access to labour that much more pressing. The gold rush attracted a number of Chinese to California, which brought the attention of the Spanish Crown in trying to provide workers for the sugar plantations in Cuba (a Spanish colony until 1898). In 1847, what became known as La Trata Amarilla or Yellow Trade began with Cantonese migrants going to Cuba as indentured workers. The Peruvian government took notice, and by 1849, it enacted its own Trata. By 1874, the end of indentured migration to Peru and Cuba, over 225,000 Chinese had crossed the Pacific in ships that became known as ‘floating hells’. Similar events took place throughout Central America and the Caribbean, where African Slaves were traded for Chinese indentured workers. The history of Chinese migration to the Americas is one riddled with conflict, violence, and exclusion; for example, there is not one single country in the entire continent that did not at one time or another enact anti-immigration laws specifically targeting the Chinese.

On another note, it is important, as the authors point out, the history of the Chinese in Latin America “has been largely hidden in plain sight”. As with any history, the majority it is written by those in power, but I don’t think this answers the entire question. In reading many historical accounts on Latin America, the conflicts between colonizers, criollos (the descendants of Spanish colonizers), Afro-communities, and Indigenous populations is for the most part intertwined. At the same time, with the exception of Cuba, where Chinese-Cubans are viewed as part of those who fought for liberation from the Spanish, Chinese communities elsewhere were regarded through a negative lens. I’m still trying to figure this out.

We can also view this article and make some parallels with what is going on today. The majority of Chinese migrants to Peru and Cuba between 1847 and 1874 (the majority that arrived post-1874 were business people from Hong Kong and California) were for the most part recruited as unskilled labour for the sugar plantations in Cuba, and the cotton and sugar plantations, railroad construction, and mining in Peru. Following the end in the indentured worker program, the majority did not have enough funds to return home (many were cheated from their wages), which propagated an internal migration to the urban centres throughout Cuba and Peru. Like today, many worked in areas that locals did not want to, as well as a number started their own businesses with small restaurants in poor neighbourhoods called fondas being the most popular. Anti-Chinese or antichinismo became evident when people throughout he major urban centres began to blame this community for taking jobs away from native ‘Peruvians’, whatever that means. However, it was not until the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, when other countries in Latin America also began to pass their own versions of this act.

Two reasons, at least in the Peruvian case why the Chinese were viewed in a negative light had to do with the extension of credit and travelling in parts of the country where others did want to such as the Amazon, and setting up shop there. The willingness of Chinese businesses to extend credit and sell things cheaper became a point of contention between locals and the new arrivals. Locals saw this competition as unwanted, and instead of adjusting and competing, they used the scapegoat of ‘job takers’ combined with racism to make the national government enact laws curtailing Chinese migration. The fact that many Chinese moved throughout the country, even to the Amazon, and become successful, also led to their vilification.

What do you think?

Week 4 – Beyond Bounded Communities: Network-Mediated Migration From an Urban Colonia in Mexicali, Mexico

This article is interesting, from my point of view, for a number of reasons: 1. Grounds transnational networks; 2. It explains how cumulative causation does not need to end up in saturation; 3. Personalizes migration.

For the first two weeks, in reading theory, we get an idea of how migration is viewed, how it moves, how it’s researched through a macro lens. Although it is very important to be knowledgeable of large structural patterns, cultural and social proclivities in different geographies, as well as the mobility of millions of people, it is important to begin at what many see as the true backbone of migration, family, kinship, or what we can refer to as primary social networks.

When we talk about migration, since for the most part, we concentrate on numbers; for example, how many people came in versus left within any given year, we rarely think about the trajectories that people take in order to migrate.  Both ‘cumulative causation’ and ‘saturation’ are good starting points. Working from the proven premise that migration begins with a ‘pioneer’ (usually a male, but as the past 20 years have shown, female migration as pioneers has grown exponentially), who settles in a specific locality, is able to secure employment and a place to live, after some time, this individual is a position to help people within a specific social network migrate. Causal migration, asserts that eventually, the networks within a specific kinship group will reach a point where migration is no longer viable since it would have a reached a point of saturation, where there may no longer be individuals willing to migrate. The author does an excellent job in proving that although cumulative causation does in fact take place, saturation need not occur.

This article brings out the strength of taking an anthropological lens. A thorough qualitative analysis can shed light and pinpoint where macro-studies have made assumptions that may not always be in tune with what is going on in the ground. Cumulative causation as a process is a direct result from the Mexican Migration Project (MMP), which since 1982 has surveyed Mexican communities residing in the United States. This project was later expanded in a Latin American Migration Project (LAMP). Both projects work are excellent examples of quantitative analyses; however, they need to be constantly tested on the ground for it to continue being a source of relevant information.

The author’s research sheds light on how the assumption of saturation does not occur. If we assume that people do not go outside their kinship networks, saturation will take place, but as Wilson shows, people move, they inter-marry, they make other social relations, which in turn expand social networks, which in this case also make them transnational social networks.

Lastly, as mentioned above, for all the millions of migrants around the globe, it all begins at the personal level. The decision to migrate, even with the money, the right papers, and an institution waiting for you and help you in whatever way they can (as many of us have done as international students), it is not a decision taken lightly. In some corners of the political spectrum, there is the idea that there is a need to close-off borders since if thrown open; the entire world would just migrate to PLACE COUNTRY NAME HERE. Migration however, is more than just picking-up and leaving, it begins with a decision, and in order to be successful, help from others that have migrated before.

In case you have time, here is an article on US/Mexico border.


What do you think?

Week 3 – “Quien Sabe?”: Deportation and Temporality Among Transnational Mexicans

Week 3 – “Quien Sabe?”: Deportation and Temporality Among Transnational Mexicans

This article brings to light a very important topic, and although a little difficult to follow at times, I think it presents a reality through a slice of life, based on a long history of migration between the United States and Mexico.

As the author states, migration between the U.S. and Mexico, at least along formal programs goes back to the end of WWII with the introduction of the Bracero program.  This program can be seen in parallel with the guest-worker programs in Germany and Switzerland during the same time period, even though the type of work done was different. Many temporary worker programs continue to exist in one way or another throughout the globe.

Before continuing with the analysis, it’s worth noting the Obama administration oversaw the highest number of deportations, ever. It’s too soon to see what this new administration will do, but it doesn’t look like it will get better. At the same time, it’s worth noting that since the beginning of the ‘great recession’ in 2007-8 until today, net migration (the difference between people coming-in and leaving) between the U.S. and Mexico is at zero. Moreover, if statistics can tell the future, “Asians Now Outpace Mexicans In Terms of Undocumented Growth” (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/asians-now-outpace-mexicans-in-terms-of-undocumented-growth/432603/). Regardless of where in the world migration shifts from and toward, the United States, it seems, will continue to attract a large number of migrants (documented and undocumented).

This article is a result of ethnographic work carried-out by the author, and although she does not go deep into her ethnography, she does explore and analyze how this concept of ‘deportability’, not only affects those directly affected by the removal process (a euphemism for deportation), but also families and communities on both sides of the border.

The very real dualities of un/certainty and im/permanence, although I would say part of all migrants, be them international students, bankers, IT personnel, etc., but having to contend this un/certainty as an undocumented individual, couple, family, or as a mixed-status family creates a daily tension of ‘losing your whole world’ as one of the people interviewed for the study asserted.

The author presented the deportation, or the concept of deportability through a prism in which we expand the view of how a removal affects an individual, but just as important, family and community.

I found this aspect of the article defining since, for the most part, even though families and communities are always affected, most of the time, the focus is placed on the individual ‘removed’ through a prism of criminality.

Walking the fine line between a generational project that is migration and deportation, which voids a person’s future, as the author argues, presents a clear case of how the power of the nation-state is very present in everyday life.

Deportation, or ‘deportability’ also contributes to un/certainty within families, especially those of mixed status (some are U.S. citizens, while others maybe permanent residents, and others yet, undocumented), while at the same time, it creates a fear within communities that could impact future generations since it is possible families could remain as mixed status perpetually.

Since the issue of ‘deportability’ is a real threat, many cities in the U.S. have become what are known as sanctuary cities, where local police are prevented from asking people stopped, or arrested from their immigration status. This however is changing with Trump administration, which has vowed (we’ll see if it happens) to cut-off federal funding sources from cities that do not comply. For example, Texas just passed a law that makes local police check an individual’s immigration status even if not charged with a crime. Time will tell how this plays out.

What do you guys think of the article?

Week 2 – Theory continued

Although the article refers to Sociology as a discipline, I think it’s important to note that many of the social sciences of today (except Anthropology perhaps) continue to favour analyses based on the nation-state framework; that is how globalization affects a specific country without or trying not to make reference that economies and societies are more intertwined than many of us think.

I would propose that many, if not all of the 7 propositions made by the author affect all social sciences to some degree.

Proposition 1 intends to take us out of our comfort zone and start thinking in relational terms. How does migration affect two or more geographies? Transnationalism these days no longer involves how a sending and receiving countries are linked via migration, but also how countries are re-connected through migrant communities in different places (e.g. Brazilians in the U.S., Japan, and Portugal).

The author points out that in order to research migration; we need to at once take ourselves from narratives, designs, models, and methodologies favouring the nation-state since they are no longer appropriate in the world we live. I would agree with this statement, yet it is easier said than done since in many of our disciplines such as Political Science or Economics, we see the nation-state as the dominant player in how we analyze our daily life.

Proposition 2, as an extension from the overarching proposition 1, proposes an inter-disciplinary approach to migration studies, which can provide deeper answers to questions about migration. And as far as I would agree with this, and it is an aspect of research, which many, myself included take, brings about a number of obstacles (none of which are sufficient to deter this drive) that make it difficult for the researcher and for an education system as a whole perhaps. Our classrooms are more often than not segregated into disciplines from early age, so by the time we arrive at the MA or PhD level, where inter-disciplinarity has become prevalent, it is difficult for many students to let go, or even want to let go of how their entire education has prepared them. In this case, migration studies brings a good nudge forward since it makes a student think and reflect outside the borders of where they live. We can think about it in the way of how mobility within the EU, depending on who you ask (let’s think about Brexit) can be viewed as a positive or a negative…yet, we still regard it more often than not through a national prism.

Proposition 3 in my mind brings about an issue of perspective that I have with Sociology, the idea of a totality.  That Sociology stemmed out of the 19th Century nation-state building process, and its anchors rest within this history, makes it difficult for this discipline to step-out of nation-state. However, in many places today, Sociology and Anthropology are taught together in departments, which allows for the disciplines to learn from each other, especially when it comes to migration studies since the local, the meso,  the national, the international, and the global are scales that work best together not separately. Transnational and Translocal (e.g. city to city mobilities) migration are approaches that can expand how we see migration, not through the prism of the individual as a migrant, but through the eyes that no person, migrates alone, even if their movement is done individually. The social, political, and cultural networks that people move across borders are what proposition 5 (ideas and people as suspicious) brings forth.

Proposition 4, as much as it has to do with research, it is also a political one. In order to carry-out research, the vast majority of us require funding from some source or another. Since the majority of sources are devoted how a country analysis, even if it’s a comparative analysis, it still requires the nation-state to be the relevant unit, makes it difficult, not impossible, to develop, follow, and carry out research taking transnational or global research on migration since it may not be politically or methodologically relevant to an agency who’s mandate might be simply to research net migration.

Proposition 5, from what I can see was in full display yesterday during the elections in France through Marine le Pen’s continued assault on migration as destroying French identity. Whether globalization’s effect are positive and negative are definitely up for debate, but this idea of bringing back the good old days, or by making ‘America great again’ by design create an ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘patriots’ versus ‘globalizers’. This point of view assumes that societies do not change, or at least should exist the way they always have; the problem is how does a society exist without change? It also assumes that the good old days were good for everyone, and that is just not so.

Castles right posits how the migration of capital and commodities are always welcome, yet foreign people and ideas are viewed in some corners with suspicion or derision.

Even though this article was published over a decade ago, it resonates even more so now in the way technology has taken over much of our lives, and how it has disrupted the labour systems of many places. The migrant as bogeyman (throughout history) as taking jobs away has always been around. I think however, that automation (and we’re still in its inception) have more to do with employment and unemployment than migration. Take platforms such as uber, lyft, airbnb, etc.; these companies have ‘disrupted’ many industries throughout the globe, which have led in some ways to unemployment. Another example, are some restaurants having ipads (California, Hong Kong, etc.) available instead of servers at restaurants, where people pick-up their food instead of being served. Automation allows one person to do a job that at times may have even required 6-7 people. It’s too early however, to see how it will affect labour markets since with new technologies, new jobs arise. This however, does not help a generation that may not have the skills to thrive in this new economy, making these grievances ripe for people such as le Pen et. al. to push their anti-immigration agenda.

Proposition 6 presents how mobility (not only physical) have created different social classes especially in many labour markets. Let’s look at the competition for talent that many countries have to lure skilled workers such as the blue card (EU), the H1B visa (US), Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas (UK), Highly skilled worker visas (Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). These visas have made it easier for skilled workers to be find employment throughout the globe, whereas the opposite is true for unskilled labour, which has seen even more barriers.

Proposition 7 in short makes the argument that since migration is a multi-layered phenomenon, it requires a multi-pronged approach that allows disciplines to dialogue and contribute to the development of theories that can be utilized in the field and at the policy level.

How did you guys find the article?

The following is text taken directly from this week’s recommened reading. It was published in 2002, and it just struck me. Does this world have some familiarity with what is going today?  What do you guys think?



In 1729, the Irish clergyman and satirist Jonathan Swift put forward a novel solution to the economic problems of a society being ravaged by British colo­ nialism: the poor should turn to ‘baby-farming,’ and earn a living by selling their children as fresh meat to the British landlords (Swift, 1955). Writing in the early 1980s, I suggested that baby-farming had indeed become a widespread practice not just in Ireland but also in many other countries on the periphery of areas of rapid economic growth. The difference was that the human exports sent to the booming industrial economies of Western Europe were consumed not as meat on the tables of the bourgeoisie, but as labor power in their facto­ ries (Castles et al , 1984:1).

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we can imagine a new type of ‘transnational baby farming’ as the core of the global migration scenario of the next fifty years. Less-developed countries excluded from the positive aspects of economic globalization would help compensate for the demographic deficits of the rich countries. The scenario would look something like this.

  • Fertility rates will continue to plummet in rich industrial countries, leading to aging populations and shrinking labor Increasing prosperity and improved education will mean that few local people will be available for low-skilled jobs.
  • Certain areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America will suffer exdusion from the mainstream global economy, resulting in deepening poverty, conflict and Fertility and population growth will remain high – despite AIDS and other epidemics. Migration in search of work will appear as the only way out for millions of people.
  • lntermediate-level countries will experience uneven forms of industrial­ ization and growth, but large countries like Brazil, Mexico, India and China will still have huge reserves of labor-market As educa­ tion systems improve, many of these young workers will have high skill levels, but will be unable to find work at home.
  • The rich countries will collaborate with each other and put pressure on

the rest of the world to tighten restrictions on migration, especially of the low-skilled. Rigorous surveillance measures using new technologies will raise the human costs of migration, leading to thousands of deaths in the oceans, mountains and deserts which migrants try to traverse. But enough people will get rhrough to encourage others to try.

  • Rich countries and NICs will use unskilled migrants as the labor force for

3-D jobs, and, increasingly, for aged care. Some such workers will be brought in through contract labor systems which deny them basic rights, while many others will be illegal migrants or asylum seekers.

  • The education systems of the intermediate countries will provide skilled workers of all kinds for the rich countries.
  • In addition, since the populations of rich countries will have virtually ceased to reproduce, immigrants from intermediate countries – carefully selected on the basis of economic, cultural and cultural criteria which serve as surrogates for race – will be allowed to settle, form families and replenish the


Like all distopias, this one is unlikely to come to pass in such a radical form – although it is based on real current trends. The main force undermin­ ing it, as in the past, will be the human agency of millions of migrants, as well as other members of both sending and receiving communities. Transnational communities resulting from migration will, through thousands of micro-strate­ gies, seek security and humane conditions for their members. By doing this, they will probably become a major factor undermining the plans of the mighty. The furure will probably be as messy as the past, and all predictions are likely to be wrong, but one thing is dear: there is no return to the neat idea of dosed­ off nation-states with homogenous national communities.


Interesting article on the creation if identity if you guys have some time.


Week 1 – Theory

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that since migration is such a complex issue, there cannot, or at least in my view, there ought not to be a general theory of migration. As much as migration is as old as human history, theoretical currents on this topic shift, change, and emerge at different times through different lenses. I think Faist denoted that at the start of the article when he noted that the “term ‘theory’ here relates to theoretically guided empirical propositions, ranging from thick descriptions aiming at particular events and sites, on one end of the continuum, to grand general theory at the other end. Neither is this an effort to develop an integrated theory of diaspora and transnationalism.”

Since human mobility as does the perception of it depending on the geography where one lives, as well as different conceptions of what migration should and ought to look at, the view of transnationalism and diaspora bring forth interesting debates.

The word ‘diaspora’ has, for a long time meant to describe the struggles and forced migrations of Jewish, and, later Armenian communities. This has changed during the last decade or two with the perceived increased in international migrations, and the coining of the ‘transnational’, which a number of people have intertwined with diaspora. The reason I say perceived, is that in actual terms, the percentage of people migrating, has actually dropped somewhat since the last great migration(s) that took place between 1849 – 1914, where almost 6% of the globe was on the move, opposed to about 3.5-4% today. Human mobility has not changed as much as people’s, societies, and governments’ view have.

This is where diaspora and transnationalism come together. Since diaspora brings forth images of dispersion, yet at the same time keeping a community as one even if geographically dispersed; transnationalism brings together communities that have a present geographic entity, the contemporary nation-state that brings everyone together as one.

The idea behind transnationalism is the extension of the nation-state across its geographic borders. Although the nation-state is not that old, it has taken over the way people view things such as citizenship, political rights, etc. However, people residing outside their state of citizenship have not always been looked at in a positive manner. It was about 20 years ago that many countries saw the benefits that remittances were having on sending countries such as Mexico, India, Peru, etc. This economic impact was one of the drivers that led many nation-states to shift their perceptions from ‘traitors’ to the nation to ‘heroes’ sacrificing for the nation. This qualitative shift became one of the drivers, which led to interest in the rise of ‘transnational communities’, many of which already existed for many years under a dark cloud as people that abandoned their homeland.

This shift in perception brought forth a number of changes in how populations were viewed. Transnational communities through the prisms of networks, imagined communities, de-territorialized yet connected became an important aspect of academic inquiry. This shift brought many communities ‘out from the cold’, which also played a vital role in accessing political rights such as voting in national elections, as well as political recognition that these communities also wielded a strong political voice, while residing in other countries. Transnationalism has also led to an increase in dual citizenship, social and economic networks working across boundaries for the betterment of the localities people hail from. All this has been accelerated through the Internet, and cheaper and faster transportation.

Diaspora on the other hand is one of the original terms of displaced communities and populations usually linked through ethnic and/or religious ties. As the author mentions, rightly I think, is that diaspora as an analytical concept can be difficult to research without the political component.

Having said this, what do you guys think of the reading?

Course Description


Migration to, from and within Latin America are made up of structures that are in constant movement and transformation. Mobilities from the 19th Century to present day have shaped and reshaped a continent socially, culturally, economically, and politically.

Today there is a much more intimate and complex relationship between migrants and receiving societies. The changes on both the structure of community and the strategies of migration depend on the different social and economic situations of the countries in which migrants have settled as well as on the ways in which receiving societies have adapted to this presence.

This survey course will take a look at different migratory movements from different regions of the globe to Latin America. It will discuss historical and contemporary movements from Europe and Asia, human mobility across the Atlantic, North America and Asia, as well as intra-continental migration.

This course will introduce students to migratory movements from different regions of the globe, and present the Latin American continent as an integral part of such global migratory processes.

The medium of instruction will be in English; however, coursework can be done in both Spanish and English.

Students wishing to participate in this class can register on Blackboard.

Class begins on the week of April 18, 2027 and runs unitl July 22, 2017

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