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Susanne Åsman

Affiliated to Education

School of Global
Visiting address
Konstepidemins väg 2
41314 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 700
40530 Göteborg

About Susanne Åsman

From autumn 2017-2019 Visiting Research Scholar at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Lecturer, course coordinator and supervisor at School of Global Studies

Many years of experience of fieldwork in Nepal and India

Areas of interest;

Critical studies of sex trafficking and anti trafficking interventions/ migraton for sex work, remittances, return migration and everyday life/ gender and agency/ body politics/ brokerage and the infra structure of migration/ gendered labour migration control and policies and their consequences in practice/ masculinities, love intimacy, sexualities and purchase of sex/ honour related discrimination and violence/ Nepal, India, the Gulf countries, Sweden 

Research projects:

Navigators of the "in-betweeen": Brokers manouvring il/legal terrains of gendered labour migration control between Nepal and the Gulf countries (2017-2020)

The overall purpose of this VR (Swedish Research Council) funded project is to explore the states restrictive gendered labour migration control, and how the actors in the infrastructure of migration handle and challenge these restrictions while navigating the labour recruitment process in sending and receiving countries. Nepal is used as the main case study for this project due to an extensive labour migration to the Gulf countries. The remittances sent back consist of 30% of the GDP (the second highest in the world), which makes the Nepali government strongly dependent on its citizen’s labour migration. Nevertheless, since the 1990s until today Nepal have regulations and bans on women’s labour migration imposed by the government that have forced women to migrate illegally. Due to regulations and the bureaucratic process involved in labour migration a large amount of private commercial actors, recruitment agencies, agents and more informal brokers, have been established facilitating migrants’ mobility. The project focuses on the brokers’ understandings of the governments gendered out migration policies and how these policies interplay with the brokers interactions and everyday practises in the gendered recruitment process, and what consequences these restrictions have for women’s and men’s il/legal migration. The project will contribute with empirical and theoretical knowledge about the processes connecting the protective but restrictive gendered migration control and the gendered labour recruitment process.

BOMBAY GOING: Migration, return and anti-trafficking in the lives of Nepali migrant sex workers

Set against the background of a critical examination of anti-trafficking organisations’ dominant discourses of sex trafficking in the Nepali context, this Social Anthropological study funded by the Swedish development agency SIDA-SAREC, provides an ethnographic account of how Tamang women and men in the Sindhupalchowk district, defined by these organisations as severely affected by sex trafficking, understand what they define as “Bombay going” or migration for sex work. The main motivation for this endeavour is that very little, if anything, has been said about sex trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts from the perspective of Tamang women besides the studies based on the rehabilitation and reintegration programmes led by anti-trafficking organisations that concentrate exclusively on the women’s identity as victims. The study focuses on women’s agency and the meaning they ascribe to their roles as sex workers in the migratory process in the present and the past. It investigates how they carve out a space for themselves and create relatedness in the places between which they move—their house in the rural area in Nepal and the brothels in Mumbai that temporarily serve as their homes during their absence. Of central importance is the women’s return to their natal or conjugal house after years of sex work in the red light district and their lived everyday lives as wives, mothers, daughters, etc.

In stark contrast to the dominant discourse among the anti-trafficking organisations, the Tamang women in this study returned of their own accord and were reintegrated into their native villages. It also demonstrates that their migration to Mumbai was driven by the intention of return from the very start. During their years abroad, the women felt a strong sense of belonging to and maintained their membership to their natal houses, through social, religious and financial contributions of “Bombay wealth”, through return visits and strong and well-established networks between the brothels in Mumbai and their homes in Nepal. Moreover, through their contributions from sex work Tamang women have created significant personal and structural social changes in their places of origin regarding gendered roles, family relations, marriage practices, mortuary rituals and religious practices and inheritance rights.

Multisited ethnographic fieldwork was carried out over a period of fifteen months with several return visits during the years after the fieldwork period, in both Nepal and India. However, the main part of the fieldwork was conducted in the Sindhupalchowk district, northeast of Kathmandu, mainly inhabited by the Tamang ethnic group. Additionally, fieldwork was carried out at the brothels in the red light districts of Mumbai and Kolkata, and interviews were conducted with INGOs and NGOs in Kathmandu working with anti-trafficking initiatives in Nepal.

Post-sex trafficking, gender, rehabilitation and health in Nepal

The project was conducted under ”The Global University” (”Det Globala Universitetet”) within a multidisciplinary platform project (The Sahlgrenska Academy, Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nordic School of Public Health, IT University at Chalmers)”Strengthening Health Education, Supporting Research, Monitoring Health in Nepal”. Funded by Gothenburg University.

Within and part of the project “Collaboration between University of Gothenburg and Nepali Institutions: Strengthening health education, Supporting Research, Monitoring Health” funded by University of Gothenburg - education and research cooperation between University of Gothenburg and Tribhuwan University, among other Nepali universities and additional Nepali institutions and programs. The cooperation covers students, teachers, and administrative personnel and provides a transdisciplinary approach in research and teaching. Education cooperation between Susanne Åsman, School of Globals Studies and Gender Study Program Tribhuwan/ Kathmandu University in Kathmandu.

Rumour communication and honour related violence

Research project conducted under “Children and their growth in an environment with honour and rumour communication in Sweden” (“Barns uppväxt i hemmiljö med heder och rykteskommunikation i Sverige) a project within the Social Anthropological project “Rumour communication and honour related violence: A forensic anthropology study” (”Rykteskommunikation och hedersvåld: en rättsantropologisk undersökning”). Funded by Siftelsen Lars Groschinskys Minnesfond.

Teach and supervise at the undergraduate level, School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University;

Teach at and course coordinator of the courses; ”Gender and sexuality across cultures”(Master course), ”Culture and sexuality in modern Swedish society”(Erasmus course), "Trafficking…", ”Method in socialanthropology” (Socialantropologisk metod), ”Asia rising ( Det moderna Asiens framväxt) ”Asia and globalization” (Asien och globaliseringen)