More than one million Indians travel annually to work in oil projects in the Gulf, one of the few international destinations where men without formal education can find lucrative employment. Between Dreams and Ghosts follows their migration, taking readers to sites in India, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, from villages to oilfields and back again. Engaging all parties involved—the migrants themselves, the recruiting agencies that place them, the government bureaucrats that regulate their emigration, and the corporations that hire them—Andrea Wright examines labor migration as a social process as it reshapes global capitalism.
With this book, Wright demonstrates how migration is deeply informed both by workers' dreams for the future and the ghosts of history, including the enduring legacies of colonial capitalism. As workers navigate bureaucratic hurdles to migration and working conditions in the Gulf, they in turn influence and inform state policies and corporate practices. Placing migrants at the center of global capital rather than its periphery, Wright shows how migrants are not passive bodies at the mercy of abstract forces—and reveals through their experiences a new understanding of contemporary resource extraction, governance, and global labor.
About the author
Andrea Wright is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at William & Mary.
"Drawing upon extraordinarily rich fieldwork and a deep knowledge of the region, Andrea Wright brilliantly weaves the transnational connections between India and the Gulf. Between Dreams and Ghosts is a landmark contribution that pushes our understanding of oil, labor, and migrant lives in new and unexpected directions."
—Adam Hanieh, author of Money, Markets, and Monarchies: The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Political Economy of the Contemporary Middle East
"Andrea Wright's elegantly crafted ethnography of the lived experiences of Indian migrants to the Gulf oil industry is a telling narrative of the poetics and politics of labor migration. Rich with multiple perspectives and based on extensive fieldwork, Between Dreams and Ghosts stands out as a sensitive and stunning account."
—Anand Yang, author of Empire of Convicts: Indian Penal Labor in Colonial Southeast Asia
"Andrea Wright's compelling work shows that the oil and money on which so many studies focus is inextricably entangled with the bodies and aspirations of labor migrants. Between Dreams and Ghosts takes readers deep into the transnational swirl of moving people and objects that link the Gulf to India."
—Douglas Rogers, author of The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture after Socialism
"Wright presents a fascinating, creatively researched study of Indian migrant workers in the oil industry of the Gulf states... Getting access to the exploiters as well as those exploited—and their ghost stories—is a tribute to the author's daring strategies of research. ... Highly recommended."
—C. M. Henry, CHOICE
"Even in a book that is in many ways fuelled by oil, the perspective of Wright's story is a very fresh take on the life-worlds that exist inside this massive industry. InBetween Dreams and Ghosts, we get to think about the materiality of the oil industry, and how the materiality itself takes on a transnational and even metaphysical life. The substantive contribution ofBeyond Ghosts and Dreamsto the study of migration in the Gulf is powerfully supported by the ways in which Wright 'passes the mic' and allows migrants to speak throughout, even allowing them to make their mark on the text. One gets the sense that Wright has been exceptionally faithful to her interlocutors and tells a story that would be recognisable to them."
—Lindsey Stephenson, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
"In dealing with migrants' lives and the biopolitics of the Indian state at a granular level, Between Dreams and Ghosts does an excellent job at uncovering the agency embedded in labor migration networks, often concealed by a mounting neoliberal corporate logic that naturalizes both labor inequalities and state intervention."
—Nelida Fuccaro, Mashriq & Mahjar
"Between Dreams and Ghosts is an essential text for both undergraduate and graduate students of South Asian studies, Gulf and Middle East Studies, political economy, labor, and migration; it also provides an important intervention for a range of non- academic audiences, including policy makers, journalists, labor organizers, and human rights groups."
—Neha Vora, Political and Legal Anthropology Review