Situating women in the brain drain discourse: discursive challenges and opportunities

Raghuram, Parvati (2009). Situating women in the brain drain discourse: discursive challenges and opportunities. In: Stalford, Helen; Currie, Samantha and Velluti, Samantha eds. Gender and migration in 21st century Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 85–106.



Most literature on migration of women from the Global South posits them in feminised roles either within their own households (family migrants) or in the workplace (as sex workers, domestic workers etc.). Even studies that focus on skilled migrant women largely highlight the processes through which they are deskilled (Man, 2004; Salaff and Greve, 2003) so that it is the narrative of migrant women taking up much greater domestic responsibilities in the destination countries that comes to occupy academic research imaginations. It is true that for many women then, femininities very often underwrite the conditions in which migration occurs (Boyd and Greico, 2003) while for others migration ends up becoming a feminising process (Ho, 2006) but these stories do not encompass all the possible ways in which migrant women from the Third World experience migration. At the same time, brain drain discourses and brain circulation discourses that are central framing devices for research on migration rarely recognize gender differentials in these processes of migration. This paper draws on research on women doctors and IT workers to suggest that including the experiences of women in these debates presents a strong challenge to feminist theorizing of migration from the Third World.

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