LSE Southeast Asia Week 2020: Migration and Mobility in the COVID-19 Era

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Online Event


Dr Sin Yee Koh

Dr Sin Yee Koh

Senior Lecturer in Global Studies at Monash University Malaysia

Dr Yasmin Y. Ortiga

Dr Yasmin Y. Ortiga

Assistant Professor of Sociology at Singapore Management University

Prof Johanna Waters

Prof Johanna Waters

Professor of Human Geography at UCL


Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, LSE

As part of LSE Southeast Asia Week 2020, SEAC hosted a roundtable panel discussion, chaired by SEAC Director Prof. Hyun Bang Shin on 27th October 2020. The roundtable invited three academics working on diverse issues related to migration and mobility, and discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the mobility and immobility of migrant workers and students among others.


Border(ing)s (Dr Sin Yee Koh)

Borders and bordering practices have long been used by nation-states to selectively include and exclude migrants and foreigners, whether in-territory or ex-territory. This has been no different in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic. On the one hand, travel lockdowns have thickened existing external borders, preventing inward and outward mobilities. On the other hand, under the guise of health security, additional layers of internal and external borders have emerged. This accentuates and complicates existing structures that stratify the selective inclusion and exclusion of ‘others’. Reflecting on how existing and new border(ings) have emerged and developed in Malaysia thus far, I offer some preliminary thoughts on migration and mobility in the era of Covid-19.

Im/mobility in Nations of Emigration: Labor Export in the Midst of Pandemic (Dr Yasmin Ortiga)

Acute disruptions in human life produce not only sudden population movements but also prolonged periods of immobility. In this intervention, I discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has upset systems of labor-export in Southeast Asia, as nations that have profited from facilitating the emigration of its citizens, now grapple with border closures and the loss of job opportunities for migrant workers overseas. Focusing on the Philippines, I discuss how the pandemic heightens the need for scholars to look beyond question of why people move, and examine what happens when aspiring migrants are unable to move or are forced to return home.

Post-Covid 19 student mobilities and transnational higher education (Prof Johanna Waters)

Covid-19 is having a significant impact on international student mobilities around the world. Students find themselves unable to travel as planned, or stuck (unable to return home) and (sometimes) increasingly destitute in the 'host' country. I will reflect upon the potential broader impacts of Covid-19 on how students and higher education institutions perceive (im)mobilities (of both students and programmes). Interesting parallels can and should be drawn between enforced changes to higher education and how transnational education (TNE) has operated over the past decade. I will ask: what lessons can be learned from critical scholarship on TNE for future student (im)mobilities? I will draw from my own work in this area, as well as extant scholarship on both international student migration and TNE.  



A video of this event is available to watch at Facebook.


  • Dr Sin Yee Koh is Senior Lecturer in Global Studies at Monash University Malaysia. Her work seeks to understand the causes, processes, and consequences of structural and urban inequalities, and how people cope individually and collectively under such conditions through the lens of migration and mobility.  She is the author of Race, Education, and Citizenship: Mobile Malaysians, British Colonial Legacies, and a Culture of Migration (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
  • Dr Yasmin Y. Ortiga is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Singapore Management University. She studies how the social construction of “skill” shapes people’s migration trajectories, changing institutions within both the countries that send migrants, as well as those that receive them. She published the book, “Emigration, Employability, and Higher Education in the Philippines” (Routledge). Her work has also been published in the Global Networks, Social Science and Medicine, and Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.
  • Prof Johanna Waters is Professor of Human Geography at UCL. She works on issues around international student mobilities, the internationalisation of education, and transnational household migration. She is author of several books and many articles on related topics and is presently supervising seven doctoral students working in this area. Her latest books include Student Migration and Mobilities (forthcoming in 2021 by Palgrave with Rachel Brooks) and an edited collection (also 2021) with Brenda Yeoh on Family and Migration published by Edward Elgar. 
  • Prof Hyun Bang Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies in the Department of Geography and Environment and Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economic dynamics of speculative urbanisation, the politics of redevelopment and displacement, gentrification, housing, the right to the city, and mega-events as urban spectacles, with particular attention to cities in Asian countries such as South Korea, China, Vietnam and Singapore. His recent projects on ‘circulating urbanism and (Asian) capital’ have also brought him to work on Quito, Manila, Iskandar Malaysia, Kuwait City and London. Prof Shin has published widely in major international journals and contributed to numerous books on the above themes. He has coauthored Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), edited Anti-Gentrification: What Is to Be Done (Dongnyok, 2017),and co- edited Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement (Bristol University Press, 2015) and Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He is a board member (trustee) of the Urban Studies Foundation, and sits on the international advisory board of the journal Antipode as well as on the editorial board of the journals International Journal of Urban and Regional Research; Urban Geography; CITY; City, Culture and Society; Space and Environment [in Korea]; China City Planning Review [in China]. 

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