Mrunmayee Satam, Amity Institute of Liberal Arts, Amity University, India
Chinmay Tumbe, author of India Moving: A History of Migration, once articulated in an interview that – ‘while the city offers economic security to the poor migrant, their social security lies in their villages, where they have assured food and accommodation’. It has been said that the economic sector is the first to receive a setback during an outbreak of any disease. It is no surprise, therefore, that historians of the social history of health and healthcare have highlighted that epidemics and pandemics trigger the process of reverse migration — a phenomenon wherein people will travel in the opposite direction of what they would typically follow. This means that when there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding their daily wages, migrant populations residing in cities prefer to travel back to their home towns in the countryside in search of social security.
Megha Amrith, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany
Migrant domestic workers in Singapore have always faced multiple restrictions on their mobilities and rights: their stays are governed by the most restrictive of work permits which require them to live in employers’ homes. They have one day off per week (or in some cases, fortnight or month), and many suffer ongoing forms of exploitation and abuse behind the closed doors of their employers’ homes as labour legislation does not apply to domestic workers. Those who have been working abroad for a long time have found their own ways to negotiate the restrictions on their mobilities to find spaces of freedom, faith, friendship and belonging. These routines, however, have been overturned by the pandemic and trust that has been built over long periods of time has revealed itself to be deeply fragile as new anxieties, coupled with intensifications of existing anxieties, come to the fore.
Identities COVID-19 Blog Series
Explore expert commentaries curated by Identities surrounding COVID-19 and displaced migration, nationhood and citizenship, and more.