Defiant aspirations: Migrant women's struggles for stability and upward mobility in Naples and Kuala Lumpur

Valeria Bonatti, Parthiban Muniandy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines migrant women's agency through narratives of the aspirations and long-term plans they make, despite the precarious conditions that temporary labor migration regimes impose on them and their families. By focusing on how migrant women develop and pursue their aspirations, we examine critical differences between the institutional limitations that subaltern migrants face and the strategies they develop to improve their lives on the long and medium term. By juxtaposing narratives of low-wage migrant women in Naples, Italy, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we identify three key areas where the restrictions of temporary labor migration regimes pose the biggest challenges to informants' aspirations: achieving stability, managing family ties and obligations on a transnational scale; and finding opportunities for professional development. We develop the concept of defiant aspirations as a lens to understand how the pursuit of security, stability and fulfillment defies the formal precariousness that migration regimes impose upon low-wage migrants. By doing so, we redefine aspirations as an emergent aspect of migrant women's agency within the literature on temporary labor migration regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-130
Number of pages18
JournalMigration Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 6 2018


  • agency
  • aspirations
  • informality
  • migration
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development

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