Asylum-Seeking Work, Precariousness, and the Making of Claimant-Workers

Tina Shrestha*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article contributes to the anthropological discussion on precariousness and labor precarity, with regard to temporality, potentiality, and subjectivity, by examining how asylum-seeking accounts intersect with, interrupt, and, above all, inform people's everyday labor activities outside the asylum process. Drawing on my ethnographic research among Nepali migrants and asylum seekers in the United States, I document people's adoption of a familiar sociocultural understanding of “the work of making paper” and retrospective logic to describe their subjective entanglement with the asylum documentation process and their impending labor subordination. I argue that it is through asylum-seeking work that people participate in and inhabit the precarization process, sustaining and exacerbating, in some cases, their precarious working lives. In this sense, asylum-seeking work involves a subjective transformation of asylum seekers into precarious “claimant-workers,” providing the condition of possibility for labor precariousness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-57
Number of pages11
JournalAnthropology of Work Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul


  • asylum-seeking
  • labor precarity
  • migrant workers
  • precariousness
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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