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Before the first ball is kicked: Migrant workers and labor politics in the 2022 World Cup Games in Qatar

As the 2022 World Cup in Qatar approaches, the international press is drawing renewed attention the serious labor abuses that the migrants building the infrastructure for the games have experienced. This talk presents an overview of Natasha Iskander’s Does Skill Make Us Human? Migrant Workers in 21st Century Qatar and Beyond, which details the complex social and economic context that produces working conditions in Qatar.

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Based on unprecedented ethnographic research on construction sites in Doha, interviews in eight languages, and fieldwork in migrants’ countries of origin, the book explores how migrants are recruited, trained, and used, and it shows that the labeling of workers as unskilled is at the root of the labor conditions they endure. Skill distinctions in Qatar act as a marker of social difference powerful enough to adjudicate personhood, and to create hierarchies that shape all facets of work, labor recruitment, and migration policy, even defining responses to global warming. 



Natasha Iskander is Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.  Her research focuses on the relationship between migration, economic production, and the creation and erasure of different kinds of knowledge.  She is the author of Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico (Cornell UP 2010) and Does Skill Make Us Human?: Migrant Workers in 21st Century Qatar and Beyond (Princeton 2021), along with numerous academic publications and policy pieces on these issues.


Tea and coffee will be served in the Common Room from 16:45



IAIS Building/LT2