‘Fettered mobility’ and translocality: irregular farm workers and the informal labour market in rural Taiwan

Isabelle Cockel, Beatrice Zani, Jonathan S. Parhusip

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Investigating the multi-layered mobility of Southeast Asian irregular farm workers in rural Taiwan, this paper examines the formation of their mobility in a physical, geographical, occupational and socio-economic sense. Focusing on frequent movement in these four aspects, this paper coins the term ‘fettered mobility’ for workers’ constant relocation in the villages’ informal farm labour market. In tandem with the focus of this SI on the ongoing transformations of migration at the crossroad between the legal, social and economic obstacles dictated by nation-states and the market, and new patterns of movement, this paper shows how ‘fettered mobility’ is an unintentional result of the Taiwanese state’s mobility regime, which regulates foreign nationals’ mobility by categorizing a hierarchical legal status. Fettered mobility is facilitated by the translocal migrant community constituted by the co-ethnic link between migrant workers and migrant spouse farmers, and also by the inter-ethnic link between the migrant community on the one hand and Taiwanese farmers and unlicensed brokers on the other. When migration is reconfiguring at a global, regional and local scale, fettered mobility is an assemblage in which the state, market and individual amalgamate into a networked, mobile, irregular and precarious labour force in which unprotected migrant workers are vulnerable to the state’s power to repatriate. Repatriation is an omnipresent threat, and anyone who knows of a migrant worker’s fettered mobility can put an end to their migration. Presenting fettered mobility as an assemblage, this paper enriches the ongoing debate on the relationship between mobility and immobility and underlines its conditionality and instability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransitions: Journal of Transient Migration
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 10 Jan 2024


  • fettered mobility
  • mobility
  • mobility regime
  • categorization
  • translocality
  • informality

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