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Antropologicheskij forum, 2020, no. 46

 

“I THOUGHT THAT COMING TO RUSSIA WAS A KIND OF CRIME”: UNDOCUMENTED LABOR MIGRANTS FROM GEORGIA IN THE SPACE OF LEGAL UNCERTAINTY

Evgenia Zakharova

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences
3 Universitetskaya Emb., St Petersburg, Russia
evgenics()gmail.com

Abstract: The article was prepared as part of a study of Georgian migration to large cities in Russia, which focuses primarily on Georgian “ethnic” business. The author addresses the question of how undocumentedness and deportability affect the organization of daily life and life strategies of new labor migrants from Georgia, and how these influence their working conditions and relationship with entrepreneurs who make use of their labor. In other words, what does it mean to live in the space of legal uncertainty? This research task determines the wording of the next question about the migrants’ perception of their legal status, the level of legality in Russia and the host state as such. The article also considers a natural aspect of undocumentedness — the legalization practices of Georgian labor migrants. The author concludes that Georgian labor migrants experience virtually all dimensions of “imposed non-existence”: the transformation of ordinary actions, such as work or traveling — due to a combination of various kinds of ineligibility — into illicit ones, restrictions of physical as well as social mobility. Migrant workers from Georgia perceive their situation as exceptional from a legal point of view; their undocumentedness creates a feeling of isolation and imposed invisibility. On the other hand, most of their life in Russia involves efforts to maintain their invisibility to the Russian state. At the same time, the presence of the state is clearly manifested in many aspects of their everyday life.

Keywords: labor migrants, Georgia, restaurant business, legal uncertainty, undocumentedness, deportability, legalization, perception of the state.

Acknowledgements: The article was prepared as part of the project “Transnational and Translocal Aspects of Migration in Modern Russia”, no. 14-18-02149-П, carried out at the European University at St Petersburg.

To cite: Zakharova E., ‘“Ya dumal, priekhat v Rossiyu — eto kakoe-to prestuplenie”: nedokumentirovannye trudovye migranty iz Gruzii v prostranstve pravovoy neopredelennosti’ [“I Thought That Coming to Russia Was a Kind of Crime”: Undocumented Labor Migrants from Georgia in the Space of Legal Uncertainty], Antropologicheskij forum, 2020, no. 46, pp. 155–187.

doi: 10.31250/1815-8870-2020-16-46-155-187

URL: http://anthropologie.kunstkamera.ru/files/pdf/046/zakharova.pdf