The lines between what constitutes migration and what constitutes human trafficking are messy at best. State policies rarely acknowledge the lived experiences of migrants, and too often the laws and policies meant to protect individuals ultimately increase the challenges faced by migrants and their kin. In some cases, the laws themselves lead to illegality or statelessness, particularly for migrant mothers and their children.
Crossing the Gulf tells the stories of the intimate lives of migrants in the Gulf cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Kuwait City. Pardis Mahdavi reveals the interconnections between migration and emotion, between family and state policy, and shows how migrants can be both mobilized and immobilized by their family relationships and the bonds of love they share across borders. The result is an absorbing and literally moving ethnography that illuminates the mutually reinforcing and constitutive forces that impact the lives of migrants and their loved ones—and how profoundly migrants are underserved by policies that more often lead to their illegality, statelessness, deportation, detention, and abuse than to their aid.
About the author
Pardis Mahdavi is Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology at Pomona College. She is the author of Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution (Stanford, 2008) and Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai (Stanford, 2011). She has been a Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow and a Google Ideas Fellow.
"Crossing the Gulf is a path breaking book that offers a powerful and poignant analysis of women's intimate lives lived in migration. Pardis Mahdavi adeptly reveals migrant women's complex subjectivities and agentic power amid the structural contradictions of national development, migration-securitization policies and citizenship laws."
—Christine Chin, American University
"Crossing the Gulf paints an intimate portrait of laborers, attentive to their diverse circumstances, contexts, and histories. Pardis Mahdavi has found the anthropological sweet spot—her work is deeply engaged in scholarly conversations, has clear application to policymakers and the regulations they steward, and is penned in the broadly engaging style of the best public anthropology. This book is a gem."
—Andrew Gardner, University of Puget Sound
"The main value of the book is the detailed narratives that show how migrants and their children confront strict government policies that shape their mobility and immobility....I recommend Crossing the Gulf for scholars of international migration, gender and the family, and the Gulf states. It is written accessibly and would be a useful course text for undergraduate and graduate students."
—David Scott FitzGerald, American Journal of Sociology