Aspiration and desperation traps in trajectories of physical and social mobility-immobility: Young female migrants in the city

Ellen Bal*, Hosna J. Shewly, Runa Laila

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Over the last two decades, Bangladesh has experienced a dramatic shift in terms of female rural–urban migration, often referred to as the feminization of migration. Drawing on extensive ethnographic research on young female migrants’ livelihood experiences in Dhaka and Gazipur, this article makes three contributions to the migration and mobilities literature. First, while migration often constitutes an adequate tool for resolving desperation, it may also cause an aspiration-desperation trap. Secondly, the transformative potential of migration and mobility for changing social relations of class and gender is not always as eff ective as it is argued. Lastly, by focusing on the temporalities of migrants’ circumstances, we argue that migration is a continuous process in which mobility and immobility are deeply entangled.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-52
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is part of a larger project entitled “Migration, Livelihoods and SRHR: A Triple Case-Study of Young Female Migrants (YFMs) in Dhaka, Bangladesh” (March 2016–October 2018), funded by the Netherlands Foundation for Academic Research (NWO) (Project number: W 08.560.008), and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The entire research project was based on collaborative research and involved several stakeholders, including researchers recruited from the studied communities. See also: (accessed 26 November 2021). We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the article, Stéphanie Ponsavady for her very kind editorial support, and the special issue editors for their constructive comments on the earlier drafts. We are grateful to the research participants who generously shared their time, experiences, and thoughts with us. 1. Guy Standing, “Global Feminization through Flexible Labor,” World Development 17, no. 7 (1989): 1077–1095,

Publisher Copyright:
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  • Aspiration
  • City
  • Desperation
  • Dhaka
  • Gender
  • Migration
  • Mobility/immobility
  • Temporality


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