Producing and Negotiating Non-Citizenship: Precarious Legal Status in Canada. By Luin Goldring, and Patricia Landolt (eds). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 2013. xx, 376. C$34.97. Irregular Migrant Domestic Workers in Europe: Who Cares? By Triandafyllidou Anna (ed.). Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2013. xvi, 235. £60.00.
Article first published online: 25 MAR 2014
© 2014 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York. All rights reserved.
International Migration Review
Volume 48, Issue 1, pages 278–279, Spring 2014
How to Cite
Dennler, K. T. (2014), Producing and Negotiating Non-Citizenship: Precarious Legal Status in Canada. By Luin Goldring, and Patricia Landolt (eds). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 2013. xx, 376. C$34.97. Irregular Migrant Domestic Workers in Europe: Who Cares? By Triandafyllidou Anna (ed.). Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2013. xvi, 235. £60.00. . International Migration Review, 48: 278–279. doi: 10.1111/imre.12079
- Issue published online: 25 MAR 2014
- Article first published online: 25 MAR 2014
These two edited collections address the paradox of contemporary migration in the Global North: growing numbers of temporary and insecure foreign workers coupled with heightened migration controls that deepen their exclusion from economic, living, and social spaces. Triandafyllidou's volume unfolds as a series of European case studies with a focus on the legal frameworks in each country, as well as the careers, health, and family arrangements of irregular domestic workers. Goldring and Landolt analyze precarity in Canada from three angles: its historical and legal production, lived experiences of precarity, and contestation of non-citizenship by institutional actors. Together, the two works contribute to knowledge about the everyday processes that produce precarity and add empirical grounding on which to challenge the conditions of insecure immigration status and flexible labor arrangements.
Triandafyllidou's book tackles the structural conditions that have generated demand for migrant domestic workers and produced a system that leaves domestic workers very vulnerable to exploitation. Some of the ground covered will be familiar to scholars of domestic work and irregular migration: the role of welfare cuts and increased participation of women in the workforce in creating a gap filled by domestic workers; the differential treatment of work in the home under labor laws; the trend to close channels of authorized work migration for low-paid labor; and the high physical and emotional toll of domestic work on the migrant workers who perform it without much access to sick leave or health care. The case studies benefit from detailed empirical discussions of how labor rights and access to social goods function, highlighting the interplay between what Heimeshoff and Schwenken call “three different things: having, knowing, and claiming rights” (71).
What is perhaps most innovative is the attention to ways in which migrant domestic workers carve space for agency, gaining more autonomy over labor conditions over the course of their careers as domestic workers. Often this means shifting from a live-in position, where domestic workers rely upon their employer to provide housing and respect their privacy, to live-out arrangements where they have more control over their hours and living conditions. As migrants accumulate social capital in their country of residence, they are better able to choose employers and negotiate work conditions. A second important insight that emerges throughout the book is the way in which concerns are shared by domestic workers across immigration statuses, often stemming from the part-time, informal, and under-regulated nature of domestic work. Although regularization of stay offers important benefits to irregular migrants, it does not sufficiently address the poor conditions and low wages associated with domestic work.
Comparatively little has been written about irregular migrants in Canada. Over the past five years, Goldring and Landolt, along with their collaborators, have endeavored to fill this gap, examining the conditions of what they call precarious migratory status, referring to a range of temporary and insecure statuses, along with lack of status. Producing and Negotiating Non-Citizenship represents their latest and most comprehensive effort. Building upon their earlier work, Goldring and Landolt include an extended discussion of non-citizenship and conditionality in a theoretically rich introduction that makes a compelling case for including a wide variety of immigration statuses in their definition of precarity. They raise an ambitious set of questions about how immigration status and non-citizenship are assembled and maintained by a diverse set of actors across time and space. The book benefits from a multi-faceted engagement with precarity, examining it from a number of angles including policy, work, schooling, access to services, and barriers to research with precarious migrants. Many chapters refer to the findings from other chapters, yielding a timely and cohesive intervention into migration scholarship in Canada.
The early chapters examine the history of immigration to Canada, demonstrating how precarity is produced as economic and employer interests play a larger role in steering policy and as more migrants arrive with temporary status. In the second section, contributors discuss the costs of precarity to well-being, housing, social life, and employment. As the contributors to Triandafyllidou's book found for domestic workers, the empirical evidence presented here suggests that these costs can have a negative impact lasting far beyond the period of precarious status. The final chapters bring together some of the most novel insights, highlighting ways in which local institutions and political organizers have challenged rather than reproduced precarity as a threshold for membership and service provision (Bhuyan; Fortier; F. Villegas; P. Villegas). Such moments and campaigns disrupt the penetration of legal categories into everyday interactions and complicate the salience of immigration status as a defining feature of migrants. The meanings of these interruptions remain under-theorized in the conceptual framework of precarity, which at times presumes a direct link between precarious status and vulnerability.
What emerges from these edited volumes is the fraught agency of irregular and precarious migrants in the Global North. The state looms large in both books, in not only tolerating but creating structural constraints that diminish the well-being of many migrants. Both offer rich empirical detail and demonstrate how rights and access to services, family life and career path, membership legal and lived are negotiated in each local and national context.