Research and Orientation Workshop and International Conference
'The State of the Global Protection System for Refugees and Migrants'

Calcutta Research Group, (25-30 November 2018)

Module B


Module B. Racialisation of Migration: Race, Religion, Gender and Other Faultlines in Forced Migration

Coordinator: Professor Paula Banerjee




In this module we contend that both citizenship and migration rests on a triad that was constructed through the axis of race, religion and resources and gender remains the unspoken fourth. So migration and forced migration studies become meaningless if these volatile issues are not considered in their proper perspectives. Race and religion create the alien body that is then forced to move and cross borders. But once the migrant is forced to cross the border the very act of border crossing creates more borders. Therefore, without understanding the ramifications of race, religion, resource and gender one cannot understand forced migration and such analysis fail to give forced migration studies its proper credence.

Forced migration is a fairly recent field in pedagogy. It began in the global north after the Second World War as refugee studies. As it became clear that modern state formation was often accompanied by large scale population displacements resulting in large population groups becoming refugees suddenly there was an upsurge in interest on who these people were. When it became evident that these people were racially and perhaps even by religion different this population movement came to be recognised as a crisis. But the end of colonialism witnessed partitions that often went hand in hand with hordes of people moving in the global south who were non-white. Many of these people had aspirations to move to the global north because they correctly associated their marginality with colonial rule that made race the bedrock of acquisition of benefits such as citizenship, power sharing and attainment of material benefits and resources. So countries in the global north marked such movements as crisis that necessitated policies and laws that gave the authority to respective states as to who should be taken and who shunned. Because more people were stopped from entering the northern borders policies and laws were formulated and the hordes that were moving were homogenised as faceless, nameless mass and in no way were they humanised in the narratives because the moment they appeared as individuals their claims for rights and resources could not be legitimately ignored. At the centre of resource sharing was the question of citizenship and who belonged was a conscious decision made by the ruling elite. Those who were considered as unworthy of being recognised as a citizen were either to be tolerated as a precarious group who might provide cheap labour or they were to be forced out joining the ranks of the “nowhere” people.

If one looks at the question of citizenship from the perspective of South Asia once again the issue of race rears its head. When one looks at India’s northeast in the colonial period the issue becomes even more clarified. To understand how differences were made that was ultimately racialised and then nationalised one needs to look at colonial administration and the creation of differences as was done in the northeast of India in the eighteenth century. The colonial administration had introduced in that period the notion of “racial difference” between the plains and the hill thereby inadvertently giving some autonomy to the hill people. But this was not done because the hill people were more advanced but rather because they were considered as barbaric and so they needed to be kept away from the plains people who were directly under the colonial administration. By the time the Indian constitution came to be framed, political exclusion of the hill areas (including Manipur and Tripura which had evolved along different historical lines) was out of question. The end of political exclusion meant also the end of autonomy. In free India the race card regarding northeast was played to deprive rather than to include.

As for gender according to Carolyn Merchant while debate over how certain groups were perceived as aliens was on going there was another debate on the nature of women in Europe. During this debate, women were considered as essentially emotional and fragile and they needed firm control to guide them just as nature's disorder necessitated order, her chaos presaged control, and that which was wild needed to be tamed. Merchant argues that the mastery of women coincided with the mastery of nature in European society. In this way Merchant argues women became the emotional resource for men but this resource needed to be harnessed. They were at once considered property of the men, and while their “owners” could use them, their bodies were also considered as symbols of honour of their men. So attacks against a community were almost always accompanied by attacks against its women. Therefore when a community was to be displaced the women were “dishonoured.” Thus all acts of displacements were accompanied by abuse of women’s sexuality, which was considered the possession of their men. Thus, forced migration always had gendered ramifications.

In the context of South Asia forced migration was closely related to race, religion and gender. We have already discussed the issue of race now let us discuss the issue of gender. Thus, modern states that are built on gender differences develop a precarious relation with its women. Women became both subjects of the state as well as its other. In pluralistic societies such as those found in South Asia “the modern projects of national independence, state building, and economic development have had distinctive gender implications and outcomes.” The nation building projects in South Asia has led to the creation of a homogenized identity of citizenship. State machineries seek to create a “unified” and “national” citizenry that accepts the central role of the existing elite. This is done through privileging majoritarian, male and monolithic cultural values that deny the space to difference. Such a denial has often led to the further segregation of the marginalized, on the basis of caste, religion and gender from the collective “us”. As a refugee a woman loses her individuality, subjectivity, citizenship and her ability to make political choices. As political non-subjects refugee women emerge as the symbol of difference between us/citizens and its other/refugees/non-citizens. Refugee women become the material for the symbolic construction of the nation’s boundaries. By studying women’s displacement in South Asia authors came up with these theoretical assumptions and more. In discussing women’s experiences of displacement they portrayed how as dislocated subjects women negotiate spaces to retrieve agency in the face of institutional apathy.


Draft of Full Paper: CLICK HERE



Sl.No. Name & Details of the Participants Country Photo Research Articles Comments by Coordinator

Ajeet Kumar Pankaj, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (Manipur)      

Bionote: Ajeet Kumar Pankaj is working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Work, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Regional Campus Manipur. He has been a visiting scholar at Department of Migration, Gender and Politics, University of Oldenburg, Germany. His academic interests pertain to Migration, Exclusion, Caste, and Politics.


Buddhism and Dalit Migrants: Interrogating Everyday forms of Counter-hegemonic Assertion

Full Paper



Daman Kaur Sethi, Independent Researcher, Child Rights Activist  

India   The NRC Discord

Full Paper


Matan Kaminer, Uiniversity of Michigan  Email:
Bionote: Matan Kaminer is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Michigan and a longtime activist on the Israeli left with a special focus on migrant and refugee issues. He is currently writing an ethnography of migrant workers from Thailand and their employers in the Arabah region of Israel, focusing on the labor process and racialization under neoliberal globalization and settler colonialism. He has been active in La Escuelita (a grassroots education organization for Latino migrants) and City for All (a municipal political party) and is now organizing at Academia for Equality, a membership organization of left-wing academics.


From ‘A light unto the nations’ to ‘the land of the white man’: Global migration and recent shifts in the racialization of migrants in Israel

Full Paper



Reshmi Banerjee, Institute Of Social Sciences, New Delhi           
Email:  reshmibchakraborty@
Bionote: Dr. Reshmi Banerjee is a political scientist with specialization in food security & agricultural policies. She is currently a Research Fellow in the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. She was previously an academic visitor in the Asian Studies Centre (Programme on Modern Burmese Studies) in St Antony’s College, University of Oxford and a research associate in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), ... continue


Hostility in History, Friction in Future: An Account of Marginalization in Myanmar

Full Paper


Sajeed Ahamed Fahurdeen, Equitas, Sri Lanka

Bionote: Sajeed is an Attorney at Law and holds a Masters degree in Human Rights and a Bachelor of Laws (L.LB) degree from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He has worked in protection and promotion of human rights, in the development sector, researcher, excellent facilitator, a trainer and also an activist who defends the rights of aggrieved and disadvantaged communities. ... continue

Sri Lanka

Forced Migration caused by an internal armed conflict in Sri Lanka: a possible reason or the Religious and Ethnic Violence after the war

Full Paper






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2.       Banerjee, Paula, "Refugee Women and the Fundamental Inadequacies in Institutional Responses in South Asia", in Joshva Raja (ed), Refugees and their Right to   Communicate: South Asian Perspectives, (London: World Association of Christian Communication, 2003)

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4.       Bhagat, Ali,  “Forced (Queer) Migration and everyday violence: The geographies of life, death and access in Cape Town”, Geoforum, 2017, pp 1-8

5.       Butalia, Urvashi, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (India: Penguin, 1998)

6.       CEDAW

7.       Chimni, B.S.  International Refugee Law – A Reader (New Delhi: Sage, 2003), section 1

8.       Fidian-Qasmiyeh, Elena, “Gender and Forced Migration”, The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, August 2014, pp 1-10

9.       Hans, Asha, “Internally Displaced Women from Kashmir: The Role of UNHCR”, SARWATCH, Volume 2 (1), 2000, pp 20-32

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16.   Pickering, Sharon,  Women, Borders and Violence:  Current Issues in Asylum, Forced Migration, and Trafficking, (New York: Springer, 2011)

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19.    Samaddar, Ranabir, (ed.), Refugees and the State (London: Sage Publications, 2003), chapter 9

20.   Saunders, Jennifer B., Elena Fidian-Qasmiyeh and Susannah Snyder, Intersections of Religion and Migration: Issues at the Global Crossroads, (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2016)

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Refugee Watch

27.    Basu Roy, Arpita, “Afghan Women In Iran”, Refugee Watch, June 2000

28.   Ivekovic, Rada, “Between Myth & Reality”, Refugee Watch, No. 10 & 11, July 2000.

29.    Kate de Rivero, "War and Its Impact on Women in Sri Lanka", Refugee Watch, No. 10 & 11, July 2000 

30.    Jagat Acharya, "Refugee Women of Bhutan", Refugee Watch, No. 10 & 11, July 2000

31.   Soma Ghosal, "Rohingya Women – Stateless and Oppressed in Burma", Refugee Watch, No. 10 & 11, July 2000 

32.   Mekondjo Kaapanda and Sherene Fenn, "Dislocated Subjects : The Story of Refugee Women", Refugee Watch, No. 10 & 11, July 2000 

33.    "Dislocating Women and Making the Nation", Refugee Watch, No. 17, December 2002

International Migration Review

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35.   Drew, Christiansen,  “Movement, Asylum, Borders: Christian Perspectives,”  International Migration Review, Volume 30 (1), 1996, pp 7-17

36.   Hagan, Jacqueline and Helen Rose Ebaugh, “Calling Upon the Sacred: Migrants’ use of Religion in the Migration Process,” International Migration Review, Volume 37(4), 2003, pp 1145-1162 

37.   He, Canfei and Patricia Gober, “Gendering Inter-Provincial Migration in China,” International Migration Review, Volume 37(4), 2003, pp 1120-1251 

38.   Hirschman, Charles, “Role of Religion in the Origins and Adaptation of Immigrant Groups in the United States,” International Migration Review, Volume 38 (2), 2004 

39.   Itzigsohn, Jose and Silvia Giorguli-Saucedo, “Incorporation, Transnationalism and Gender: Immigrant Incorporation and Transnational Participation as Gendered Process,” International Migration Review, Volume 39 (4), 2005, pp 895-920 

40.   Jones-Correa,  Michael,  “Different Paths: Gender, Immigration and Political Participation,”  International Migration Review, Volume 32(2), 1998, pp 326-349 

41.   Kofman,  Eleanore, “ Female ‘Birds of Passage’ a Decade Later: Gender and Immigration in the European Union,” International Migration Review, Volume 33(2), 1999, pp 269-300

42. Plaut, W. Gunther,  “Jewish Ethics and International Migrations,” International Migration Review, Volume 30(1), 1996, pp 18-26