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Faith and uncertainty: migrants’ journeys between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore

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Published in Health, Risk & Society. 2015, p. 1-20
Abstract In Indonesia, transnational labour migrations have become a major source of foreign currency over the past 20 years. On migration routes and abroad, migrants are often subjected to abusive, sometimes violent or even deadly experiences. Yet, the ‘migration industry’ can count on increasing numbers of candidates. Drawing on 20-month multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2006 and 2009 in Java (Indonesia), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Singapore, I explore how, under these circumstances, migrant workers relate to this risky adventure. As it appears, local conceptions of ‘fate’ help to overcome fear: as future is perceived in terms of destiny, and since destiny lies ultimately in the hands of God, dealing with potential risks is a matter of religious faith: only by surrendering sincerely to Allah is the migrant able to secure his or her future in this dangerous milieu. In this cognitive framework, incidents are conceived of as cobaan Tuhan – godly trials – full of meanings, which are meant to test one’s faith in God. And bad experiences, rather than being seen as contingent, are perceived as godly signs, which need to be interpreted in order to comply with God’s will. I aim to show how this worldview formulates risk and/or uncertainty in terms of nasib and/or takdir (fate; destiny). This relation to risk, in turn, challenges Western-centred risk theories in adding nuance to the relationship between agency and risk, by tracing a singular conceptual tension between risk and fate.
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BASTIDE, Lois. Faith and uncertainty: migrants’ journeys between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In: Health, Risk & Society, 2015, p. 1-20. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:75852

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Deposited on : 2015-10-08

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