International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 42: Gender and migration
Until the late 1970s, women’s role in migration had largely been ignored, but by the 1980s women had become a subject of enquiry in the literature on migration, in part owing to the growing presence of feminism in academic disciplines. The new international division of labour and the relocation of production to the Global South changed the gender composition of rural-to-urban migrants, especially in Latin America and Asia (Sassen-Koob, 1984). In her ground-breaking book, Cynthia Enloe (1989) highlighted a diversity of migrations which contributed to making feminist sense of international politics in the post-war years. Women migrated within states to work in manufacturing in the newly created export processing zones (EPZs) in Asia, Mexico and Central America and to supply sexual services at military bases in South Asia. Internationally and regionally, women also migrated to middle-class households in North America and Europe to work as nannies, au pairs and domestic workers. Since the 1990s the field of gender and migration has expanded enormously, especially in response to increased migration from the Global South to the Global North. Theoretically, there has been a shift from the study of women migrants to gender as an analytical category and an engagement with perspectives of transnationalism and globalization. The global has become the scale at which migrations are conceptualized, while the focus has shifted away from production to reproduction, especially domestic and care labour, as the catalyst for the growth of female and, to a lesser extent, male migrations.
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