Labour migration, precarious work and liminality

Scott, Sam ORCID: 0000-0002-5951-4749, Jakobsen, Thomas Sætre ORCID: 0000-0002-7531-7059, Rye, Johan Fredrik ORCID: 0000-0001-5252-359X and Visser, M Anne ORCID: 0000-0001-5047-7702 (2022) Labour migration, precarious work and liminality. Work in the Global Economy, 2 (1). pp. 27-45. doi:10.1332/273241721X16471891313746

Text (Peer Reviewed Version © Authors 2022)
10908 Scott, Jakobsen, Rye and Visser (2022) Labour-Migration-Precarious-Work-and-Liminality.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License All Rights Reserved.

Download (137kB) | Preview


Liminality, as originally conceived by anthropologists, is a temporary ‘in-between’ state that acts as a bridge, connecting old roles to new roles, and resulting in a desired new state. The article applies this concept to precarious migrant work. We argue, specifically, that migrants in low-wage and insecure work occupy four main liminal realms following their cross-border mobility: the temporal, the financial, the social and the legal. We explore these four realms using qualitative interview evidence (36 interviews) from comparative research with migrant workers, migrant employers and community stakeholders in Norway and the UK. The paper then reflects on the balance between liminality (as a positive, temporary and in-between state) and limbo (as a negative, long-term state). We argue that migrants doing precarious work avoid limbo, but at the same time do not experience liminality as originally conceived. Instead, they experience what we term ‘ambiguous liminality’: where precarious work is encountered as liminal, but where the exact mechanisms and pathways leading to a desired new state are multiple, uncertain and incremental. Liminality, however ambiguous, is a vital expression of migrant agency; but it also serves the interests of capital too: masking the negatives associated with precarious work and helping to underpin precarious migrants’ work ethic.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Labour; Liminal; Migration; Precarious; Work
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human geography. Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Sam Scott
Date Deposited: 16 May 2022 10:53
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:57

University Staff: Request a correction | Repository Editors: Update this record

University Of Gloucestershire

Bookmark and Share

Find Us On Social Media:

Social Media Icons Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Pinterest Linkedin

Other University Web Sites

University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.