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New Plantations: Migrant Mobility, ‘Illegality’ and Racialisation in European Agricultural Labour

What are the mechanisms of differential inclusion and segregation of migrant workers in the agro-industrial labour markets?

Project Summary

This project engages in a comparative enquiry into the triple dynamics of race, space and “illegality” in the reproduction of migrant precarious labour conditions in European agro-industrial labour markets. The complex question how and why “illegality” and “race” may become productive in the segmentation of precarious migrant workers across Europe is currently widely discussed. The project will address this question in a systematic way through five original case studies that are currently almost uncovered by research on migrant labour in Italian, Swiss and Belgian horticulture (specifically the research focuses on Emilia-Romagna, Basilicata; Swiss Midlands and Lake Geneva Region; and Limburg).

This comparative ethnographic analysis of migrant employment regimes is meant to contribute to a better understanding of mechanisms of differential inclusion and segregation of migrant workers in competitive agri-food chains. The projects aims at developing a framework for more socially sustainable production regimes in the studied contexts and at exploring approaches that might improve difficult working conditions of migrants in agriculture.

Academic Output

Working Paper

New Plantations: Arbitrating ‘Seasonal Migrant Labour’ in Europe

The present working paper summarizes the results of a project titled New plantations Migrant mobility, ‘illegality’ and racialization in European agricultural labour. Our work in this project focuses on labour market mediation in the domain of expanding agro-business in Europe. We start from the consideration that a large section of agricultural labour today is performed by transnational migrants coming from both within and outside the European Union (see e.g. Forum civique européen 2002, Potot 2010, Morice and Michalon 2009, Gertel/Sippel 2014, Duflot 2011, Corrado/de Castro/Perrotta 2017). While practicing different strategies of mobility, such migrant workers are typically caught in a web of multiscalar border assemblages, which channel, filter and differentiate their permissions, rights and claims. At the same time, their presence is also partly a reaction to the generated need for cheap and flexible labour in what have become increasingly globalized food production chains on the continent. One of the major factors behind the rapid expansion of precarious migrant labour in the European agri-food sector, for example, has been the intensification of flexible, retail-driven – or monopsonic – agricultural production in the context of international trade liberalization. Such transformations often fall back on, and keep on propelling the demand for malleable, low-paid work these migrant workers are increasingly asked to fulfill. New Plantations highlights this new labour paradigm while also pushing for a conceptual innovation to better grasp the multiscalar and multidimensional dimensions of migrant labour in this context

Executive Summary

This project focuses on labour market mediation in the domain of expanding agrobusiness in Europe. Starting from the observation that a large section of agricultural labour today is performed by transnational migrants from both within and outside the European Union, we analyze how these workers are typically caught in a web of multiscalar institutional assemblages that channel, filter and differentiate their permissions, rights and claims in the context of Europe’s rapidly transforming border and migration regimes. At the same time, we analyze how migrant labour becomes actively integrated into intensified retail-driven and flexible commodity networks. New Plantations highlights this new labour paradigm while also pushing for a conceptual innovation to better grasp the multiscalar and multidimensional framing of migrant subject positions in this context.

Research Team

Timothy Raeymaekers
Coordinator
University of Zurich

Karel Arnaut
Co-Coordinator
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Sarah Schilliger
Co-Coordinator
Universität Basel

Tina Bopp
Principal Member
Universität Basel

Ilaria Ippolito
Principal Member
Ya Basta!

Domenico Perrotta
Principal Member
Università degli studi di Bergamo

Simon Affolter
Associated Member
Universität Bern

Ilker Ataç
Associated Member
Universität Osnabrück

Chokri Ben Chikha
Associated Member
Theatre Company Action Zoo HumainUniversity of Geneva

Christian Berndt
Associated Member
Universität Zürich

Mark Breusers
Associated Member
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Cristina Brovia
Associated Member
Università degli studi di Torino

Ann Cassiman
Associated Member
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Bambi Ceuppens
Associated Member
Royal Museum for Central Africa

Neva Cocchi
Associated Member
Ya Basta!

Elisabeth de Staelen
Associated Member
vzw Gastvrij St. Truiden

Anne Dussart
Associated Member
Caritas International

Aisha Fahmy
Associated Member
Autonome Schule Zürich

Pietro Luigi Floridia
Associated Member
Cantieri Meticci

Raymond Gétaz
Associated Member
Europäische BürgerInnen Forum

Olivia Jost
Associated Member
Anlaufstelle für Sans-Papiers Basel

Christiane Kuptsch
Associated Member
International Labor Organisation (ILO)

Silva Lieberherr
Associated Member
University of Zurich

Pietro Marullo
Associated Member
Theatre de Liege

Sandro Mezzadra
Associated Member
Università di Bologna

Alessandro Monsutti
Associated Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Karin Pape
Associated Member
WIEGO

Maurilio Pirone
Associated Member
Università de Bologna

Lionel Roche
Associated Member
Syndicat UNIA

Philippe Sauvin
Associated Member
L’autre syndicat

Simon Sontowski
Associated Member
University of Zurich

Gervasio Ungolo
Associated Member
Osservatorio Migranti Basilicata

Johan Wets
Associated Member
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Status

completed

Disciplines

Themes

Regions

Countries

Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland

Host Institution

Coordinator

Year