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The social organization of 'difference' and capitalist restructuring in Canada: The making of 'migrant workers' through the 1973 Non-Immigrant Employment Authorization Program (NIEAP)

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Nandita Rani Sharma


By utilizing the materialist method of institutional ethnography of Dorothy E. Smith, complemented by Michel Foucault's analysis of 'governmentality', I conduct a documentary analysis of Canadian House of Commons debates from 1969 to 1973, inclusive, to explore how the 1973 immigration program of indentured 'migrant worker' recruitment--the Non-Immigrant Employment Authorization Program (NIEAP)--was organized as a feature of 'globalization'. I examine immigration and globalization as socially organized processes that together produce a space in which people and capital move and meet. Rather than taking a case-study approach to the study of 'migrant workers', I investigate the social organization of our knowledge of migrant workers and how this category is produced as a social phenomenon. My examination centres on an analysis of social practices and their ideological character to uncover the social relations that make certain state practices--and not others--imaginable and actionable. I reveal the importance of racist and nationalist ideological state practices to the material organization of a competitive 'Canadian' labour market within a re-structured global capitalism and the resultant re-organization of notions of Canadian nationhood. I argue that socially organizing the 'foreign-ness' of a certain racialized group of workers within the nationalized Canadian labour market and neo-liberal policy shifts in trade and investment that allow for greater capital mobility are integrally related state practices. I problematize the legitimacy of the 'migrant worker' category by examining the ideological character of repeated calls for 'order at the border' in the Canadian Parliament. I show that parliamentary discursive practices of producing certain people as 'problems' for 'Canadians' results not in the physical exclusion of those constructed as 'foreigners' but in their ideological and material differentiation from Canadians once living and working within Canadian society. I, thus, uncover how national state practices that organize social 'differences' within Canada also shape how the relations of ruling are accomplished during my period of study. I show that in the period under study, the racialization of Canadian immigration policy was shifted, in part, from the more explicit pre-1967 criteria of "preferred races and nationalities" to the 1973 'non-immigrant' category.

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University of Toronto (Canada)

Academic department

Sociology and Equity Studies in Education



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Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers, Occupations in services - Domestic work, Sales and service occupations - general, Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations - general, Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations - general, Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing, Dancers, and Other

Content types

Policy analysis

Geographical focuses

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Nova Scotia, and National relevance

Spheres of activity

Cultural and ethnic studies, History, Law, Management of human resources, Philosophy, Political science, and Sociology