Join Professor Pallavi Banerjee as she discusses her new book titled, “The Opportunity Trap: High-Skilled Workers, Indian Families and the Failures of the Dependent Visa Program.”
The Opportunity Trap explores how Indian immigrants grapple with the liminality of their positions as temporary workers or nonworking spouses as well as aspiring citizens after they migrate with their families to the U.S. for work. Drawing on extensive qualitative data from in-depth interviews, observations, and archival research, this is the first book to compare the work and family lives of two distinct groups of Indian immigrants: men tech workers and women nurses relocating with their spouses, who arrive on H-4 dependent visas. Banerjee unravels the dissonance between the state’s perception of these migrants as internationally mobile skilled workers and the immigrant subjects’ tribulations when negotiating the contradictory expectations of being ideal citizens/workers/families without having the security of permanence in the U.S. She also shows how restrictions on the spouses of migrant temporary workers, who are not allowed to work for pay as a condition of their dependent visas in the U.S., constrain and fracture individuals and their families, leading many to refer to the dependent visas as “vegetable visas” and “prison visas.” The Opportunity Trap reveals how visas policies strip women and men of basic rights within the home, at the workplace, and in civil society by creating gendered and racialized structures of dependence comprising the state, work organizations, and transnational global processes, all shaping the lives of migrant workers and their families. Visa policies that are framed as legally gender and race neutral in fact have gendered and racialized ramifications for visa holders and their spouses. This book shows how those whose worlds are tied to these visas struggle to negotiate their lives within a visa regime embedded in a gendered and racialized system of oppression.
About the Speaker
Pallavi Banerjee is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Calgary since 2015. Before this she was a postdoctoral fellow at the sociology department at Vanderbilt University. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Illinois, Chicago in December of 2012. Her research interests are situated at the intersections of sociology of immigration, refugee studies, gender, unpaid and paid labour, intersectionality, transnationalism, minority families and the Global South. Her book entitled, The Opportunity Trap: High-Skilled Workers, Indian Families and the Failures of Dependent-Visa Policy was published by NYU Press in 2022, explores how the immigration and visa regimes of United States affect men tech-worker and women nurses’ families of Indian immigrant professional workers in the U.S. Her other award-winning research has been published in many peer-reviewed journals including the American Behavioral Scientist, Gender Work and Organizations, Studies in Social Justice, Sociological Forum, Women, Gender, and Families of Color, among other journals. She is currently working on a book manuscript on how refugee resettlement creates gendered labour regimes among Yazidi, Syrian and Rohingya refugees in the U.S. and Canada. She also is co-writing a book with her doctoral student, entitled Gender: New Trajectories in Law contracted with Routledge Press. She has also written opinion-pieces in venues such as The Globe and Mail, The Conversations and Ms Magazine and her research has been cited widely in the media in the U.S., Canada and India. She is currently co-editing two Special Issues for the journals Gender and Society and the Canadian Ethnic Studies and has been on the editorial boards of Gender and Society and Journal of Family and Economic Issues for the last four years. Dr. Banerjee directs the Critical Gender, Intersectionality and Migration Research Group at the University of Calgary, and her research is funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).