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The Elementary School Teacher, the Thug and his Grandmother: Informal Brokers and Transnational Migration from Indonesia

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This article considers the emergence of informal brokers in the context of an increasingly formalized regime of transnational labour migration from Indonesia. Following the 1997 Asian economic crisis and the fall of the Suharto regime, there has been a dramatic increase in documented transnational migration to Malaysia at the expense of undocumented migration. In this process, a growing number of private agencies have come to control the increasingly deregulated market for migrant recruitment. These agencies, in turn, depend on informal brokers who recruit migrants in villages across Indonesia to work on palm oil plantations and as domestic servants in countries such as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. This article takes these informal brokers as a starting point for considering the current Indonesian migration regime, using ethnographic data from the island of Lombok. Along with offering a description of brokering practices, the article argues that the dual process of centralization of migration control and fragmentation of labour recruitment has created a space of mediation for individuals who can navigate bureaucratic process while embodying the ethical qualities that convince Indonesian villagers to become migrants.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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