Global Labor Migration: Past and Present

June 20-22, 2019

The International Institute for Social History
Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Labor migration is a vast, global, and highly fluid phenomenon in the 21st century, capturing public attention and driving political controversy.  There are more labor migrants working in areas beyond their birth country or region than ever before.  Although scattered across the social ladder, migrant workers have always clustered, at least initially, in the bottom rungs of the working class.  Even as cross-border or inter-regional movement may beckon as a source of hope and new opportunity, the experience for the migrants and their families is often fraught with peril.  Labor migrants are vulnerable: they are exploited more easily by recruiters and employers, and are less likely to benefit from union representation.  They often face arrest or deportation when attempting to fight for their rights, and are bound to special documents that limit their ability to change jobs.  Moreover, as recent history reminds us, host-country fears directed towards labor migrants can also spark larger political movements characterized by nativist, racist, or even outright fascist tendencies.  Clearly, there is a need to combat fear with understanding and to reach for improved global regulations and standards to protect the rights and welfare of migrants alongside those of host country working people. 

Because today global labor migration is shaping the lives of millions, and because it is receiving unprecedented attention by scholars, the newly-formed Global Labor Migration Network (GLMN) is currently planning for a Global Labor Migration Summit to take place in Amsterdam in summer 2019.  Involving scholars and activists from diverse parts of the globe and drawing on a wide variety of disciplines--including history, sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, public health, law and public policy--this project will bring international attention to one of the world’s most pressing issues, generate scholarly dialogue and new research agendas, and propose policies that can improve conditions for migrants.  The conference will also include a range of presentation formats: brief papers, roundtables, and open conversations.

Our keynote speakers for the conference have been announced! They are Donna Gabaccia of the University of Toronto and Bridget Anderson of the University of Bristol.

The deadline to submit paper proposals for this conference has passed.


A special thanks to the co-sponsors for this conference:

  • The Center for Global Migration Studies
  • Critical Sociology
  • Dartmouth University
  • Institute for Korean Studies, Indiana University
  • International Institute of Social History
  • Labor: Studies in Working-Class History
  • Labor and Working-Class History Association
  • The Centre for Employment and Labour Relations, Melbourne Law School
  • Department of History, University of Georgia
  • Department of History, University of Maryland
  • Department of History and Women's Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Douglas A.Fraser Center for Workplace Issues

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