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Two new PhD positions in a recently funded project about Thai migrant women in Norway

(Photo: Freepik, edited)

Blog post written by Zubia Willmann-Robleda (Researcher, Center for Intercultural Communication, SIK/VID), edited by Kari Storstein Haug (Professor at VID Specialized University, VID).

Just before Christmas, we received the wonderful news that our project called “Negotiating life strategies in transnational migration. Religion, work, and family life among Thai migrant women in Norway (THAIMIG)” was one of the projects that were granted funding as part of the Excellence in Research 2022-2025 from VID Specialized University. The goal of this funding scheme at VID is primarily to support the building of a research environment at the university to later apply for larger funding bodies such as the Norwegian Research Council. The allocated funds will make it possible to carry out fieldwork in both Norway and Thailand, hire two PhD candidates who will be working full-time on the project over three years as well as give early career researchers the experience of carrying out a project together with co-supervising PhD projects.

In this project, we ask what role and significance transnational migration (including return migration), social networks, work, and religion play in the lives of Thai female migrants in Norway. The project team consists of eight researchers, all with a PhD, five from VID Specialized University, Norway: Project leader Kari Storstein Haug, assisting project leader Zubia Willman-Robleda, Georgios Trantas, Norma Wong and Meltem Yilmaz Sener and three from the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology at Thammasat University, Thailand: Chantanee Charoensri, Panitee Brown, and Wilanee Phananakhonsab. The project has an interdisciplinary approach with the following being the main disciplines: sociology, theology, religious studies, politics and public administration and migration studies.

This project seeks to shed light on a migrant group that has received little attention in existing research, namely Thai female migrants in Norway. Most Thai women who immigrate to Europe, including Norway, do so after marrying a European man. These conditions are often seen as a result of Western sex tourism and many Thai women experience significant stereotyping and discrimination. However, a growing number of studies on Thai women in Europe challenge the perceptions of Thai women as passive victims and provide a more nuanced picture of their experiences and strategies, including their agency. Despite the fact that Thai women are the largest group of female migrants to Norway from outside Europe, have a higher employment rate than the average among migrants in Norway, and have contributed to the establishment of more Buddhist temples in Norway, there is hardly any research related to this group. In addition, there is also limited research on the return migration phenomenon of Thai migrant women and their spouses. This group of migrants has important features that raise several questions about the importance of transnational family life, networks, work and religion in their lives in Norway.

Our main research questions are the following:

What role do the interconnections of transnational migration, social networks, work, and religion play in the life strategies of Thai migrant women in Norway?

The subsidiary research questions are:

1) What role do (transnational) social networks and labour market participation play in Thai migrant women’s life strategies and social inclusion?

2) What is the significance and place of religion in the lives of Thai women in Norway and what roles do religious institutions, discourses, practices, and rituals play in their life strategies?

3) What role does return migration play in the life strategies of Thai migrant women and what impact do the Norwegian welfare system and the Thai immigration policy in facilitating and/or hindering (permanent) return migration among Thai-Norwegian couples?

In addition to seeking to understand transnational life and the interconnections between religion, migration, family life and work, this project also aims to use the knowledge generated to counter stereotypes about, and stigmatization of, Thai female migrants to present a more complex, relevant and holistic picture of their lives as migrants and minority groups.

Currently, we are in the process of recruiting two PhD candidates, one with a focus on the role and significance of religion among Thai migrant women and another on Thai migrant women’s transnational social networks and labour market participation in Norway. We appreciate you spreading the announcements among your network! The deadline is the

11th of April 2022!

PhD Research Fellowship in Thai migrant women’s transnational social networks and labour market participation in Norway, see

PhD Research Fellowship in the role and significance of religion in the lives of Thai migrants in Norway, see

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