Social Structure, Relationships and Reproduction in Quasi-Family Networks: Brokering Circular Migration of Vietnamese Sex Workers to Singapore

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2017, 45(9): 1631-1649

This article proposes an ethnographic examination of the inner workings of unsanctioned informal networks that facilitate the circular migration and labour of Vietnamese sex workers to Singapore. These operations are coordinated by brokers who sell migration services to their clients. I conceptualise them as ‘quasifamily networks’ because kinship bonds, the fact that brokers (‘mothers’) and sex workers (‘daughters’) operate under the framework of a family ethos which allows them to establish intimate and unequal relationships, and socialising and reproductive processes inscribed in the family form, are defining structural features. The study of these organisational and operational traits allows us to consider a new network model in the field of transnational unsanctioned migration for sex work, and to discuss issues of network structure, adaptability and reproduction in repressive market environments in relation to the family form.