The Production of the Indian Student: Regimes and Imaginaries of Migration, Education, Labour, Citizenship and Class

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Shanthi Robertson


The so-called Indian student ‘crisis’ of 2009 and 2010 is often analysed in the context of how the violence against students challenged Australian multiculturalism and revealed both underlying racism and denial of racism in Australian society (see, for example, Mason 2012, Dunn, Pelleri & Maeder-Han 2011, Singh 2011). Some analyses further interrogate the incidents in relation to Australia’s relationship to India as one of its Asia-Pacific neighbours and key trading partners (Mason 2012). Yet there was a far wider context of global transformations to regimes of immigration, education, labour and citizenship that shaped the experience of Indian students in Australia leading up to and after the ‘crisis’ itself. The local context and local responses to the crisis are analysed thoroughly in other papers of this volume. What I seek to do in this chapter is to situate the very presence (and the subsequent vulnerabilities) of Indian students in Australia within several intersecting political, economic and cultural forces operating at national, regional and global scales. The focus of this paper is thus not on the violent incidents or their immediate consequences, but rather on the specific ways that transforming immigration and citizenship regimes, global labour markets, and global imaginaries of mobility and class facilitated Indian students’ mobility into Australia and shaped elements of their lives while they were here. In particular, I focus on how national mobility regimes, influenced by global processes, crafted and re-crafted the subjectivities of Indian students as by turns desirable and problematic.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Shanthi Robertson, Western Sydney University

Dr Shanthi Robertson is a Senior Research Fellow (ARC DECRA) at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Shanthi was awarded her PhD in International Studies from RMIT University in 2009. She worked as a lecturer in Global Studies and researcher at the Globalism Research Centre at RMIT University until she joined the Institute in 2013. Her research interests are broadly around the social and cultural consequences of globalisation, with a specific focus on transnational migration, citizenship, multiculturalism and urban social change within the Asia-Pacific region. Shanthi is currently working on an ARC DECRA project on temporality, mobility and Asian temporary migration to Australia.