Imagined Mobility

Imagined Mobility

Migration and Transnationalism among Indian Students in Australia

By Michiel Baas

Anthem South Asian Studies

Anthem Studies in Australian Politics, Economics and Society

This book critically examines the history and current issues on the migration of Indian students to Australia.

Hardback, 276 Pages


October 2010

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

With its close analysis of the phenomenon of the migration of Indian students to Australia, this book critically approaches the entanglement of the education industry with migration opportunities, and looks into the goals and aspirations of the Indian middle class. It discusses the overlaps of studies on migration and transnationalism, and raises questions on skilled migration.


‘Baas’s juggling between the big and the small, between the global transformations of higher education and the specific aspirations and life trajectories of his informants […] gives the book its texture and complexity. […] What makes ‘Imagined Mobilities’ a fine example of ethnographic writing is the modest and reflexive way in which it shows how [student-migrant] paths urge us to think beyond current ways of conceiving migration and transnationalism.’ —Brett Neilson, University of Western Sydney, in ‘Asian Studies Review’

‘Imagined Mobility’ is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the recent troubled history of the tens of thousands of Indian students attracted to study in Australia.' —Bob Birrell, Reader in Sociology, Monash University and editor of ‘People and Place’

‘In the context of declining fertility rates, a wide range of OECD countries are constructing “study-migration” pathways, with international students a prized but contested human capital resource. Michiel Baas’s ethnographic analysis of Indian students in Australia provides fascinating insight into this phenomenon, researched on a participant-observation basis. Scaffolded on the four semesters of Indian students’ enrolment, Baas examines their pre-migration aspirations and expectations, the social and economic peripheralism they experience, and the complex interplay of their study, work and migration objectives. The backdrop is transnationalism at the start of the 21st century, with international study the portal to many imagined lives. Baas’s book will appeal to readers of Buruma’s ‘Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance’. ‘Imagined Mobility’ is a timely, intimate and engaging global study, addressing international education, migration, and integration policy issues.’ —Lesleyanne Hawthorne, Associate Dean International, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne

‘A revealing narrative of the “migration cycle” of present generation Indian students in transnational space. This text traces the changing mindscape of expatriate students through its various phases.’ —Binod Khadria, Professor of Economics and Education, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the author of ‘The Migration of Knowledge Workers’ and editor of ‘India Migration Report’

‘Dr Michiel Baas’ in-depth and up-to-date study ‘Imagined Mobility’ is a rare, precise and timely intervention in the field of Australia–India relations for both scholars and policy makers. Dr Baas’ work, presented through extensive anthropological field research, revaluates the concepts of transnationalism and transnationals and offers daring and insightful perceptions on the workings of the Australian education industry and the much-hyped and controversial phenomenon of “curry-bashing”. At the same time this incisive study portrays a humane picture of the students and skilled migrants from India.’ —Dr Amit Sarwal, Treasurer, Indian Association for the Study of Australia (IASA) and Assistant Professor, Department of English, Rajdhani College, University of Delhi

‘Michiel Baas has examined a new relationship between migration and mobility in his study of Indian students in Australia. Indian students, most often single and male, who came from the 1990s onwards dreamt of mobility rather than settlement. He describes these imagining and reflects on how he studied this varied group of potential migrants. The shift to mobility has important implications for settlement, relationships within the transnational family; and migration policy.’ —Professor Supriya Singh, Professor, Sociology of Communications, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Author Information

Michiel Baas is a researcher with the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam. His work focuses on India, the middle class, migration, transnationalism and mobility.


Anthem South Asian Studies

Anthem Studies in Australian Politics, Economics and Society

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; List of Abbreviations and Acronyms; Acknowledgements; Departure - Migration, Transnationalism and What Lies In-Between; First Semester - Of Leaving and Arriving: From and to a Culture of Migration; Second Semester - Some History Lessons as well as Learning the Hard Way; Summer School - A History of Students Going Overseas; Third Semester - Learning How to Work In-Between: Legal and Illegal Realms; Fourth Semester - Graduating as a Migrant; Arrival - Imagined Mobility; A New Departure - Curry Bashing and Alien Space Invaders; Data, Dilemmas and Doing Fieldwork the Ethical Way; Notes; References; Index


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