New York University graduate student Sushma Joshi said that when traveling from Nepal, she was denied entrance into India because she did not have a male guardian with her. She was allowed to enter only after having promised to return the following day with her brother.
Joshi was one of many panelists from all over the globe who spoke at a weekend-long conference titled “Globalization, Labor, and South Asian Communities” in the Michigan League to address labor issues such as human trafficking in India and underemployment of immigrants in the United States.
“I was very impressed by all the speakers. And, overall, the conference was very informative and cohesive,” said LSA junior Meredith Koenig, who added that she had decided to attend the conference “knowing virtually nothing about issues in Southeast Asia.”
The conference began Friday afternoon with Wellesley College political science prof. Christopher Canland”s discussion of the problems faced by workers in India, 93 percent of whom “work without any form of contracts with the employers.”
On Saturday morning, Columbia University anthropology graduate student Svati Shah spoke about human trafficking for prostitution. Shah said that victims of trafficking include Nepalese women who are forced to into prostitution in large cities in India.
In the same discussion, Joshi explained the anti-trafficking fight as a restriction to the women”s movement within Asia.
In a discussion titled “Diasporic Labors: Domestic Workers and Taxi Drivers in the USA,” Loyola University undergraduate student Ali Taqi said 70 percent of the immigrant taxi drivers he interviewed in Chicago held bachelor”s degrees and that they had entered the profession as a “temporary, transitional job.” Many of them maintain their jobs because they do not want to lose “the sense of belonging” they had gained in the new country, he added.
Other topics of the conference were the impact of globalization on Indian industrial relations law, conflicts in the United States between employees and employers of Southeast Asian origin and the growing cases of discrimination in the United States after Sept. 11 against Southeast Asians who are Muslim.
“There is a major hole in South Asian studies meetings having to do with real-world politics of working-class communities. This is somewhat surprising since South Asians are well represented in most disciplines and across the intellectual and political spectrum,” said Sharad Chari, a University of Michigan assistant professor of anthropology and one of the organizers of the conference.
“I hope that the intellectual and political energy from this kind of event widens in its concerns for social change,” Chari added.