Ethical Issues in Migration
Jordan Desmond (Queen's University), Karen Connie Abalos-Orendain

June 25, 2021, 1:00pm - 3:00pm

This event is online


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This webinar features two paper presentations. Each speaker will have 40 minutes to present their arguments, and then there will be 20 minutes for a question and answer period.

A Critical Account of Habermas’s Communicative Action as Applied to Filipina Migrant Claims
Karen Connie Abalos-Orendain, PhD, University of the Philippines, Diliman

The appeal of Critical Theory comes from many fronts. However, its applicability on practical issues both for the political and the moral is probably its strongest feature. The question then becomes: up to what extent can concepts such as communicative theory and intersubjective processes translate to action? In this paper, we explore the limitations and possibilities of Critical Social Theory and discourse ethics as posed by Jurgen Habermas. Specifically, we critically analyze his concept of Communicative Action by applying it to the question of migrant rights.  When applied to the claims of female migrant domestic workers, how will Habermas’s discourse theory hold? 

We begin this analysis with a brief description of Habermas’s theory. We focus on his vision for what Critical Theory can offer as a framework through his concepts of communicative action. We reflect on his insights critically by utilizing the analysis of his own former students, Nancy Fraser and Seyla Benhabib. We show how Fraser shows the limitations of Habermas’s concept because he failed to take into consideration the female perspective and contribution to the labor force as well as the society in general. How are migrant domestic workers’ rights different from other rights claims? We pose that feminist issues also translate into migrant claims within the nuclear home in the case of domestic helpers. This mounts the question of migration within the gender framework.

Meanwhile, Benhabib presents us with the potential of the theory once again by reminding us of its universalist stance, which can be advantageous when applied to migrant workers. We delve deeper into the question of rights as moral claims and rights as legal entitlements. Is the gap between the two distinctions simply a matter of recognition? Seyla Benhabib helps us understand the problem. We then conclude with a quick summary and a brief projection of what is possible regarding this particular issue using the methods of discourse theory. In this project, the discourse we refer to is the ongoing milieu of migrant narratives and its subsequent claims.

Care Worker Migration and the Responsibility for Rectifying Injustices
Jordan Desmond, Queen’s University

In “Care Worker Migration and Transnational Justice,” Lisa Eckenwiler offers a brilliant account of the ongoing care worker migration crisis, identifying the structural injustices that have caused and been created by the crisis, as well as the agents implicated in their manifestation and perpetuation.[1]Further, Eckenwiler offers several recommendations for how we might go about attributing responsibilities to respond to these injustices. In this paper, I take a critical look at Eckenwiler’s approach to attributing responsibility and the extent to which it can be said to satisfy what ought to be considered the aims of moral action. In particular, I identify in Eckenwiler’s account certain ambiguities that, I argue, entail limitations in scope or in motivational capacity that fail to maximize just outcomes for those who have been harmed by mass care worker migration.

In light of such issues, I situate Eckenwiler’s position within a framework inspired by the work of Robert Goodin,[2]so as to strengthen the grounds upon which we are able to make attributions of responsibility and expand the scope of implicated agents from whom moral action is demanded. In particular, I argue that we ought to hold agents responsible for moral action by virtue of their capacity for effective response and regardless of their causal relationship to the crisis. The hope is that by doing so, I am able to preserve the strengths of Eckenwiler’s approach to transnational justice while offering a more effective means of responding to the care worker migration crisis. In order to demonstrate this effectiveness, I consider a concrete proposal, articulated by Joan Tronto,[3]for addressing issues of dislocation and exploitation that result from mass care worker migration and argue that my account is more effectively able to carry out such a proposal.

[1]Lisa Eckenwiler, “Care Worker Migration and Transnational Justice,” Public Health Ethics 2, no. 2 (2009): 171-183.

[2]Robert Goodin, “What Is So Special About Our Fellow Countrymen?” Ethics 98 (1998): 663-686.

[3]Joan Tronto, “Care as the Work of Citizens,” in Women and Citizenship, ed. Marilyn Friedman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 130-145.

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June 25, 2021, 1:00pm EST

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