In response to the dehumanizing conditions that female migrant workers face (in foreign countries as well as in the borderlands), many activists have advocated for the guarantee of their human rights and/or for the ethicopolitical recognition of this population and their protection under a transnational regime of human belonging. Such claims on behalf of women unmoored by processes of globalization as well as war invariably invoke but also problematize humanity as a category of valuable life from which a growing global majority of people are systematically excluded. It is the violence that is inflicted upon, in order to construct, the expendable lives of female migrants that indexes and defines the condition of their exclusion from humanity. Violence and suffering become the constitutive traits of dehumanization, while humanity becomes equated with freedom from violence. It would seem that today “humanity” has become primarily a category of the protected, a status that accrues to fully-fledged subjects under the universal law of state sovereignty. Sold off by their own nation-states as commodified national natural resources, migrant women thus lose the universal guarantee of their humanity and are left exposed to the practices of violence that others engage in both to exercise their own claims to sovereign power and to ensure their own protected human belonging.
Life-Times of Becoming Human