Precarious Pasts, Precarious Futures

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


This chapter locates the origins of migration law in the early vagrancy acts, which purported to control the mobility of the poor within states. It illustrates the parallels between the master–servant relation, indentured servitude, and contemporary migration control. In addition, it explores affinities between the historical figure of the ‘vagrant’ and contemporary ‘benefit claimant’, and how concerns about social disorder recur in contemporary migration debates. The chapter reminds us that the figure of the ‘migrant’ should be questioned in order to identify the propensity for migration law to become hostage to concerns about poverty, disorder, and control. It also identifies how concerns about certain forms of ‘unfree labour’ have a long history of being institutionalized so as to rationalize exclusion of certain migrants.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMigrants at Work
Subtitle of host publication Immigration and Vulnerability in Labour Law
EditorsCathryn Costello, Mark Freedland
Place of PublicationCorby
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780191023514
ISBN (Print)9780198714101
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Structured keywords

  • SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship


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