JSP Student Profile

Shikha Bhattacharjee


Year: Advanced to Candidacy (ABD) - JSP

Email: shikhasb@berkeley.edu


University of California, Berkeley | Expected 2022
PhD Jurisprudence and Social Policy

University of Pennsylvania Law School | May 2013
J.D. and Certificate in Global Human Rights

Yale University | May 2006
B.A. English and Ethnicity, Race & Migration


Bringing together legal analysis, interdisciplinary social science research, and social theory, I develop empirically grounded theories of global migration and value chain governance, with implications for legal and quasi-legal regimes at international, national, and sub-national levels. My focus on gender, race, and caste in the global economy considers how social governance regimes articulate in relationship to legal, financial, and political regimes.

To this end, I work as the principal investigator on transnational, multi-site, mixed method field investigations. I have conducted original field work, in partnerships with workers and civil society organizations on women’s migration from Ethiopia to the Gulf for domestic work; gender based violence and harassment on garment production lines in Asia; labor supply chains within India; impacts of India’s biometric identification system on migrant workers; and gendered and caste-designated forced labor in South Asia. I am currently investigating COVID-19 impacts on South Asian migrant workers employed in the hospitality and construction sectors in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

My collaboration with civil society groups and workers organizations is grounded in research practices that seek to use positions of power in knowledge generation to address information and power imbalances among participants. Such an approach joins a line of scholarship committed to pragmatic solidarity—not only perceiving social inequalities, but also challenging and transforming inequalities of power. I anchor research collaborations at Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum, where I serve as Research Director.

Attesting to the strengths of this approach, my research has been funded by the National Science Foundation - Law and Social Sciences Program; US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Open Society Foundations; Global Fund for Women; International Labour Organization; and University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

Website: http://www.shikhasb.com


National Science Foundation, Law and Social Sciences Program, Dissertation Improvement Grant (2020-)
Chowdhury Fellowship for Bangladesh Studies (2019-present)
University of California Berkeley Human Rights Center Fellow (2016)
Fulbright-Nehru Fellow (2013-2014)
University of Pennsylvania Law Review Public Interest Fellow (2013-2014)
University of Pennsylvania Law School Toll Public Interest Scholar (2010-2013)
Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellow (Bengali) (2011-2013)
Center for the Advanced Study of India Research Fellow (2011)
Penn Law Summer International Human Rights Fellow (2011)


Global migration governance
Global value chain governance
Gender, caste, and race in the global economy
Human Rights
South Asia Studies
Social Movements
Law and Social Change

Academic Experiences:

-Research Fellow, Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, New School for Social Research (2019-present)
-Research Fellow, Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley Law School (2017)
-Research Associate, Project on Political Conflict, Gender and People's Rights, Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley (2016-present)
-Human Rights Fellow, Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley Law School (2016)

Employment Experiences:

My work is informed by a decade of experience working with grassroots campaigns and civil society organizations in the U.S. and Asia, using legal, media and community organizing approaches. I have been an Ella Baker fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a researcher for Human Rights Watch and the International Labour Organisation, and a Fulbright fellow at Swayam. I have also worked with a broad range of organizations in South Asia including Human Rights Law Network, Jan Sahas Social Development Society, PRADAN, Society for Labour and Development and Women's Fund Asia. In 2015, I co-founded HELM Social Design Studio, dedicated to democratizing access to law at the grassroots, national, and international levels (http://helmstudio.org).

Dissertation Abstract:

The study is a multi-site ethnographic account of migration corridors—circuits of human mobility within and across nation states that are governed by not only national administration of borders, but also transnational financial, political, and social forces. It seeks to understand governance of migration corridors traversed by migrant women workers in relationship to three building blocks: (1) expulsions that propel migration (e.g. national/global patterns of uneven development, environmental devastation, corporate land grabs, and conflict); (2) junctions where disparate migration flows converge and are redirected, including urban production and service hubs, special economic zones (SEZs), and territorial borders; and (3) forces that direct migration flows (e.g. product and labor supply chains, securitization, and local processes shaped by women labor migrants, recruitment intermediaries, and kinship and social networks). These building blocks serve as navigators across the following corridors: From within Bangladesh to Dhaka; from Bangladesh and Syria to Jordan; from within Ethiopia to Addis Ababa; and from Ethiopia to Lebanon and Jordan. Each corridor marks the growing significance of female labor migration for employment in garment and/or domestic work, providing a prism for understanding interactions between gendered social governance and legal, financial, and political regimes. Primary data sources are ethnographic research, interviews with migrant women, and facilitated discussions with migrants and representatives from migrant organizations, trade unions, collectives, and networks. I will situate primary data in relations to secondary legal, policy, financial, and news media data.

In the last twenty years, a focus on borders as territorial and imagined sites of inclusion and exclusion has generated powerful insights and political understanding in migration studies, but also across the social sciences and humanities. The study offers a framework to complement this dominant spatiality in migration studies. While the term “migration corridor” appears occasionally in social science and policy literature in reference to well-traversed geographical and infrastructural human migration routes, the corridor has yet to be theorized as an ontology of power that is governed by the circulation of state and non-state governing rationalities. The empirically grounded theorization of the corridor proposed in this study fills an empirical and theoretical vacuum by advancing an analytic framework that views borders as just one junction amidst an ecosystem of forces that direct, discipline, and manage circuits of human mobility. The study will contribute fresh insight into how migration corridors are constituted in the everyday practices and lived experiences of migrant women. The method offers a compelling means of drawing together scholarship on expulsions, flows, routes, and junctions. It collapses disciplinary boundaries by considering how varied modes of governance intersect in the lives of migrant women workers. The migration corridor construct brings together aspects of critical border scholarship from international political economy, anthropology, critical criminology, and migration studies.

Curriculum Vitae