Imaginaries of the ideal migrant worker: a Lacanian interpretation

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This paper explores the production of ‘ideal’ migrant workers by recruitment agencies in the context of Latvian labour migration to the UK. The fantasies of the ‘ideal’ worker created by recruiters have a particular hold on migrant subjectivity, but they often hide inconsistencies and slippages implicit within the fabric of recruitment discourse and practice. By drawing on the notions of fantasy and desire as developed by Jacques Lacan, this paper analyses the determination of subjectivity in a migration context and explores both unconscious and conscious processes of identification. On the basis of an analysis of drawings sketched by respondents during qualitative interviews conducted in Latvia, it challenges narrower assumptions about migrants’ search behaviour and stable expectations of labour migration, and exposes the split and contested nature of migrant selfhood.It concludes with conceptual observations about the complex process of identification and the unachievable figure of the ‘ideal’ worker.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-483
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • Migration
  • Lacan
  • Subjectivity
  • Recruitment
  • Drawing


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