Embrace and Exclusion: Time-space Control of Labor and Noncitizenship in Thailand’s Guestworker Regimes


ACLS Fellowship Program




Amid a rise in guestworker programs globally, states increasingly seek to include foreigners in labor markets while excluding them from settling permanently. Thailand offers a paradigmatic case for understanding this worldwide migration control trend and its impact on growing numbers of noncitizen workers and their families. Examining a puzzling difference in how the Thai state regulates migrant workers across locations – strict enforcement of document time limits in some and heightened control of spatial boundaries around rights in others – this book project identifies the forces from above and below that encourage subnational variation in how authorities legally embrace migrant workers while enforcing different boundaries around their rights. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews with migrant workers from Myanmar, Thai state officials, employers, and intermediaries in two sites, the study illuminates the dynamics of labor migration control and the corresponding ways that migrants organize their households and capacities for daily and long-term work. Through this ethnographic comparison, the book develops a framework for theorizing contemporary migration control and noncitizenship in a global context.