“Trafficking” Parenting: Migration, Motherhood, Forced Labor and Deportability in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In: Middle East Law and Governance
Pardis MahdaviPomona College, California

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The aim of this paper is twofold: first, to look at how parenthood can often place or keep migrant women in situations of force, fraud, or coercion that characterize human trafficking; and, second, to look at how becoming a parent (or the possibility of reproducing) while in the host country structures a discourse and series of actions that can lead migrant women into trafficking-like situations of becoming undocumented and illegal, being detained, abused, or deported. Drawing on four years of ethnographic research in the UAE between 2007 and 2011, I contrast women’s experiences of parenthood while in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with conversations and discourses constructed about migrant women’s bodies, reproductive capabilities, and sexualities. Beyond looking at the question of intimate labor, I aim to look at the intimate lives of those engaging in intimate labor, asking: what of the personal, affective, and emotional ties of those working in spheres of intimate labor?

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