My Dream Course: Migrant Workers and Human Rights

Here is an outline of my course that focuses on the Canadian context. I absolutely loved teaching it and engaging with my students and inspiring them to step out of their privileges and to think like community organisers…EVEG

Migrant Workers and Human Rights
Human Rights & Equity Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University

Fall 2010 AP/HREQ 3485 3.00A (To be taught again in the Fall of 2011)

Course Description
In the last few decades globalization has produced displacement and the urgency of movement for millions of people in order to secure a livelihood.  In this context, people from the Third World have to contend with particular ways of moving, living and working in the global economy.

This course will explore precarious forms of labour migration that exploit race, class, gender and sexuality to create a highly vulnerable and disposable class of workers which violate basic human rights at every turn.  We will focus primarily on the North American context while taking cues from other regions of the world where the First World and the Third World collide.  The Canadian context is of particular importance, where marginalized migrant workers (as opposed to formally-processed immigrants accepted under the Canadian point system, or migrants admitted under special programs with marketable professional skills) are rendered stateless through the denial of fundamental human rights.

In the first section of the course, we explore key concepts and theories of labour migration. The second section turns specifically the Canadian context and the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs. In the third section we turn to international migrant rights protocols and their limits and possibilities for the lives of migrant workers and their families. The concluding section turns to re-conceptualizations of human rights by migrant workers and their allies through diverse models of organizing from the countryside to the global city.

Course Objectives
This course intends for students to:

  • Understand the causes and functions of precarious labour migration
  • Discern the relevancy of international human rights protocols seeking to promote the human rights of migrant workers and their families
  • Inspect the ways in which migrant workers resist, adapt and assert their agency in precarious labour migration
  • Engage in the movement for im/migrant workers’ rights in Canada and/or in the international context

Course Overview

Week 1. September 13 Course Introduction
The Fault Lines: Labour Migration and Global Apartheid
Week 2. September 20 Workers on the Move
Week 3. September  27 Mapping the Geopolitics of Displacement [Film: El Norte]
Oh Canada: Native Land, Migrante Country
Week 4. October 4: The Shift Towards Disposable Workers, Disposable Peoples
Week 5. Reading week-no class on October 11
Week 6. October 18 Unwelcomed Guests at our Thanksgiving Table? Migrant Farm Workers
[Documentary: El Contrato] [Proposal Due]
Week 7. October 25 Migrant Women Serving the Nation: Latina Exotic Dancers and Filipina Nannies
[test review]
Week 8. November 1 Mid-term test [Return of Proposals]
Human Rights Violations, Human Rights Delusions
Week 9. November 8 Inter/national Human Rights Protocols and Migrant Workers
Week 10. November 15 The Other Side of Migration: Communities and Families Left Behind
Migrant Workers Fight Back: Allies, Agency and Resistance
Week 11. November 22 From the Margins of the Rural: Migrant Farm Workers United
Week 12. November 29 Organizing within the Global City [Documentary: Made in L.A.] [Case Study Essay Due]
[test review]
Week 13. December 6

Conclusion: Final in class test

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