Deportability, Micropractices of Self-Discipline and Everyday Resistance in Swiss Horticulture Sector

Sarah Schilliger & Nils Wyssmann, Université de Basel

The disciplining of the migrant labor force in agriculture is usually explained partly through their ‘deportability’ (de Genova 2002): ‘Deportability’ prevents undocumented migrant workers from challenging precarious working and living conditions. In Swiss agriculture, only a small number of migrant workers are ‘sans-papiers’. We argue that deportability not only applies to undocumented migrants (see also Basok et al. 2014): Migrant workers employed legally with temporary contracts are also disciplined through threat of deportation – not primarily by the state, but by the employers. As a result, temporary migrant workers in Swiss agriculture constantly must prove themselves to be a ‚good/strong/healthy worker’ in order to get a contract in the subsequent season and not to be denied the opportunity to return to work in Switzerland in the future (and potentially to take family members with them who are employed at the same farm). We draw from ethnographical insights on vegetable farms in the Swiss Midlands with migrant workers from Portugal and Eastern Europe (mostly seasonal workers). Apart from an analysis of the working and living conditions, we also discuss forms of everyday resistance (e.g. little ‘sabotage’ actions) and (mostly failed) attempts to unionize migrant workers in the Swiss agricultural sector.

Basok, Tanya; Bélanger Danièle; Rivas, Eloy (2014): Reproducing Deportability: Migrant Agricultural Workers in South-western Ontario. In: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 40, Iss. 9, 1394- 1413.
De Genova, Nicola (2002): Migrant “illegality” and deportability in everyday life. In: Annual Review of Anthropology 31, 419-447.