Susanne Åsman

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Institutionen för globala
Konstepidemins väg 2
41314 Göteborg
Box 700
40530 Göteborg

Om Susanne Åsman

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

Lecturer, course coordinator and supervisor at Scool 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. 

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

New publication: Bombay Going: Nepali Migrant Sex Workers in an Anti- Trafficking Era https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498558549  


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.

A 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.

Humanitarianism and the moral politics of sex trafficking and rehabilitation in Nepal

Within the multidisciplinary project ”Strengthening Health Education, Supporting Research, Monitoring Health in Nepal”. Funded by ”The Global University”, University of Gothenburg. The project, through critical ethnography connecting the local context with global processes, explores the humanitarian reason and government in anti-trafficking organizations rehabilitation programs for women in a post sex- trafficking situation in Nepal. The project scrutinizes the moral logics, assumptions and contradictions and the justification of the moral politics of the rehabilitative practices and how these are played out in regard to the social dynamics of gender, caste, ethnicity and class. Research on the post-sex trafficking rehabilitation field has received little attention to date. The study shows that the major intention that was emphasized by the staff was to “empower” the women at the rehabilitation centres. However, the most significant rehabilitative practices was focused on moral and behavioural “correction”, “moral guidance and correction” with the aim of ”getting the women to know what is right and what is wrong” as the staff expressed it. The women concerned, mainly from ethnic or low caste groups, were to become proper and modest young women in line with the dominating Hindu high caste ideals in order to be able to adjust to and become accepted by Nepali society. There was an obvious paradox in these rehabilitative practices, at the same time as they were focusing on empowering the women in rehabilitation they were upholding the same gendered values that they actually expressed were what made the women end up in their problematic situations in the first place, reproducing the very same values they had the intention to overcome in those programs. In this way they also re/produced the anti- trafficking rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration industry with its employment and career opportunities for a high caste Hindu middle class in the country. Fieldwork at different anti- trafficking organizations offices and rehabilitation centers in Kathmandu, Nepal, was conducted during four different periods between 2011- 2014 with return visits in 2015 and 2016.

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. Lecturer and course coordinator at the undergraduate and post graduate level, School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University;

Lecturer 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)