Watch CERIC webinar "Moving milieus"

Chaoguo Xing (Beijing, China) and Biao Xiang (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany) discussed the securitization of mobility among migrant doulas in Beijing during COVID-19.

Watch the webinar here

This webinar is part of our ESRC project “Labour mobility in transition: a multi-actor study of the re-regulation of migrant work in 'low-skilled' sectors” (LIMITS). Read more about it here.  


The securitization of mobility means interventions in individuals’ mobility that minimize perceived public threats associated with movements. Specific measures include contact tracing, logistical arrangement, quarantine requirement, contactless delivery, and traveller screening and qualification. Widely adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of such measures may become routine in the long run, especially for migrants. How has mobility been securitized, especially among migrants who have no stable residence or formal employment, and what can be the implications for them? Based on field research with migrant postpartum doulas in Beijing, both before and during COVID, this article demonstrates how their mobility is securitized through a series of “milieus”—programmed settings in which migrants’ behaviour is directly conditioned and monitored. A milieu can be the worksite, the dormitory, the commuting route between work and home, and the multi-leg travel across cities. A milieu is created through intersections between government regulations, technological systems, social networks, humanitarian assistance, and commercial intermediaries. Commercial job intermediaries play a central role in creating and sustaining such milieus, which in turn empower them in relation to migrants.


Chaoguo Xing is an associate professor at the University of Science and Technology in Beijing, China. He holds a PhD in Sociology from the Renmin University of China and a PhD in Anthropology from Aichi University, Japan. His major research interest specializes in Chinese internal migration. His current research focuses on Chinese domestic workers’ informal employment during COVID-19.

Biao Xiang 项飙 is Director of Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany since 2020, and Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford before that. Xiang’s research addresses various types of migration – internal and international, unskilled and highly skilled, emigration and return migration, and the places and people left behind – in China, India and other parts of Asia. Xiang is the winner of the 2008 Anthony Leeds Prize for his book Global Bodyshopping and the 2012 William L. Holland Prize for his article ‘Predatory Princes’. His 2000 Chinese book 跨越边界的社区 (published in English as Transcending Boundaries, 2005) was reprinted in 2018 as a contemporary classic, and 自己作为方法 (Self as Method, co-authored with Wu Qi) was ranked the Most Impactful Book 2020. His work has been translated into Japanese, French, Korean, Spanish, German and Italian.

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