Drawing on Foucault’s concepts of biopolitical subject formation and governmentality, this article seeks to understand transnational state power and how Vietnamese migrant workers negotiate within a transnational framework both while working in Malaysia and upon their return to Vietnam. By conducting multi-sited interviews in Vietnam and Malaysia between 2008 and 2015, we contribute to the transnational labor migration literature by focusing on Vietnamese factory and construction workers in Malaysia and their resistance to transnational state power. We argue that these two emerging economies, as part of the neoliberal world, use their systems, media, and technologies to produce and manage citizens (in Vietnam) and non-citizen subjects (migrants in Malaysia) who comply with labor export policy and foreign worker policy, respectively. These two states ensure both government and individual accumulation to sustain their power. Meanwhile, Vietnamese migrant subjects negotiate their roles, resist when necessary, and at times, even benefit from overseas labor migration.
Migrant Labor and State Power: Vietnamese Workers in Malaysia and Vietnam
Dr. Angie Ngọc Trần is Professor of Political Economy in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Global Studies, California State University, Monterey Bay. She received her PhD from the University of Southern California. Her books include Ties That Bind: Cultural Identity, Class and Law in Flexible Labor Resistance in Vietnam (Cornell University Press, 2013), Reaching for the Dream: Challenges of Sustainable Development in Vietnam (co-authored with Beresford, NIAS Press and University of Hawaii Press, 2004). Her current research interests include the agency of ethnic minority groups migrating to work in Malaysia, and a comparative study on transnational migrant workers from Vietnam, Mexico and Central America.
Dr Vicki Crinis is an Honorary Researcher in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Law, Humanities and Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. She is co-editor with Professor Adrian Vickers of Labour in the Clothing Industry in the Asia Pacific. Her current research interests include the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the fashion industry, human rights and migrant workers in contemporary Malaysia, and the traffic of migrant women and girls in colonial Malaya.
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Angie Ngọc Trần, Vicki Crinis; Migrant Labor and State Power: Vietnamese Workers in Malaysia and Vietnam. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1 May 2018; 13 (2): 27–73. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2018.13.2.27
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