Year published :January 2014

Pages :198 pp.

Size :14x21 cm.

ISBN: 9786162150753

BARE LIFE of Thai Migrant Workmen in Singapore, The

by Pattana Kitiarsa

Transnational labor migration often begins with the dream of securing a more stable and prosperous future, a chance to survive. The lure of “global cities” as a place to attain that dream looms large within the context of rural-urban migration flows. This book reveals some of the complex phenomena and processes that strip bare the lives and dreams of migrant workers living abroad, whose life experiences are overwhelmingly dominated by stress and suffering and diminished gendered roles.

The book illuminates the intimate aspects of how Thai male migrants have transcended their harsh reality while living under Singapore’s strict regulations governing foreign workers. Stripped bare of the powerful sociocultural, economic, and legal processes that govern their existence at home, these men must recraft their gendered selfhoods, identities, and sensibilities.

Using personal and interpretive ethnography, the book explores how popular music, sports, religious beliefs, cultural traditions, sexual desire, and intimacy are refashioned by appropriating cultural and symbolic capital into new cultural experiences. It also provides an extensive look at the sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome (SUNDS) among young healthy Thai construction workers in Singapore. The author’s in-depth analyses of migrant social life and male migrant gendered identitynegotiating processes provide an invaluable contribution to our understanding of labor transnationalism in the Southeast Asian context.

About the Author

Pattana Kitiarsa was Assistant Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. His research focused on a broad array of topics including Muai Thai kick boxing, Buddhism, Thai popular culture and cinema, traditional festivals, and transnational labor migration.


  • An important contribution to studies of the masculinization of migration 
  • Provides ample insight into the lived experience of migrant workers 
  • Explores an often forgotten side of labor migration, that of sexual intimacy 
  • Adds a rich, detailed understanding of “village transnationalism”


Thailand | Singapore | transnational migration | labor transnationalism | rural-urban migration | migrant laborers | gendered identity | anthropology | ethnic studies

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