Migrant labor and global commons: Transnational subjects, visions, and methods
Copyright © International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc. 2014. Despite the prominence of both migrant workers and global commons as protagonists in recent meetings of the World Social Forum, few activists or scholars have successfully linked their historical agency or significance. In the following essay, I locate conceptual starting points for linking migrant workers and global commons by analyzing the work of the transnational and the commons in political conversation at the WSF and in the historiographies of immigration and the environment in North America. I argue that the transnational and global commons are best understood as analytical vantages rather than as utopian visions of nation-state transcendence. Using research into the history of human trafficking, I explore the analytical advantages of linking migrant workers to global commons. As inevitable trespassers of both national sovereignty and property claims, migrant workers' journeys help reveal a global commons that is, like them, migratory, fleeting, and often illegible to the state authorities. Such commons are not pristine wildernesses, but polyglots of weedy hybrids. Migrant workers' transnational vantages illuminate the limits of enclosure and the enduring adaptability of nonhuman nature across national boundaries.
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