Cabaret Dancers: “Settle Down in order to Stay Mobile?” Bridging Theoretical Orientations within Transnational Migration Studies

Author(s) : Janine Dahinden

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« Adopting a transnational perspective has become essential in understanding the contemporary practices taking place across borders, especially with respect to migrants. In this article, I argue that we can distinguish two theoretical orientations within transnational migration studies: one theorizing the complexity of transnational processes and focusing on established migrants settled in host countries; and the second theorizing transnational practices on the basis of different but continuous forms of mobility. Using the example of cabaret dancers in Switzerland, I show how they develop a very specific form of transnationality, which corresponds at first sight to the second theoretical orientation. Some of them are genuinely “world travelers”—they work in erotic clubs in Switzerland, Japan, or Lebanon, go home regularly to visit their families, or continue their studies. As such, their transnational morphology is highly influenced by gender as well as by the (transnational) nature of the sex industry and the opportunities and legal structure in Switzerland. Nevertheless, to remain in circulation, the dancers need to develop a kind of mobility capital, which involves, paradoxically, becoming “sedentarized” to a certain degree in Switzerland. The article thus advocates a theoretical framework that better captures the experiences of settled as well as of circulatory migrants. »

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