Rurally rooted cross‐border migrant workers from Myanmar, Covid‐19, and agrarian movements

SM (Jun) Borras, Jennifer C. Franco, Doi Ra, Tom Kramer, Mi Kamoon, Phwe Phyu, Khu Khu Ju, Pietje Vervest, Mary Oo, Kyar Yin Shell, Thu Maung Soe, Ze Dau, Mi Phyu, Mi Saryar Poine, Mi Pakao Jumper, Nai Sawor Mon, Khun Oo, Kyaw Thu, Nwet Kay Khine, Tun Tun NaingNila Papa, Lway Htwe Htwe, Lway Hlar Reang, Lway Poe Jay, Naw Seng Ja, Yunan Xu, Chunyu Wang, Jingzhong Ye

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This paper examines the situation of rurally rooted cross-border migrant workers from Myanmar during the Covid-19 pandemic. It looks at the circumstances of the migrants prior to the global health emergency, before exploring possibilities for a
post-pandemic future for this stratum of the working people by raising critical questions addressed to agrarian movements.
It does this by focusing on the nature and dynamics of the nexus of land and labour in the context of production and social
reproduction, a view that in the context of rurally rooted cross-border migrant workers necessarily requires interrelated
perspectives on labour, agrarian, and food justice struggles. This requires a rethinking of the role of land, not as a factor
in either production or social reproduction, but as a central component in both spheres simultaneously. The question is not
‘whether’ it is necessary and desirable to forge multi-class coalitions and struggles against external capital, while not losing sight of the exploitative relations within rural communities and the household; rather, the question is ‘how’ to achieve
this. It will require a messy recursive process, going back and forth between theoretical exploration and practical politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-338
Number of pages24
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number1
Early online date3 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This article would not have been possible without the contributions of all those we interviewed, especially the migrant workers themselves, who shared their life stories with us so generously under very challenging circumstances. We are very grateful to them and hope we have captured their experiences and insights well. This study has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. [834006]), under the ERC Advanced Grant project RRUSHES-5, as well as from the Transnational Institute (TNI). We are grateful to Jens Lerche and Jonathan Pattenden, as well as to three anonymous reviewers for their critical, constructive and helpful comments and suggestions that saved the manuscript from embarrassing mistakes and helped improve the clarity of our argument. Finally, we thank Paula Bownas for her excellent copyediting assistance.

Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s).


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