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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2021/22 Prof. Dr. Nicola Piper

Prof. Dr. Nicola Piper

University of Sydney
Political Sociology and Migration Studies
External Senior Fellow (EURIAS Programme)
June - October 2016 & April - July 2017


Nicola Piper was trained as Political Sociologist and Japanologist in four different countries. She did her Undergraduate in Japanese Studies and Political Science at the University of Trier, Germany, the University of Vienna, Austria and the Sophia University Tokyo, Japan. Followed by a Master Degree in Japanese Studies, School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield, UK., where she also completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Sociological Studies. As Research Fellow, Piper initially worked at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Copenhagen University in 1998. Followed by a Senior Fellowship at the Research School of Social Science at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia in 2001. Afterwards she worked as Consultant at the United Nations Institute for Social Development, Geneva, Switzerland for one year in 2004. Subsequently Piper assumed a Senior Research Fellowship at the Asia Research Institute, at the National University of Singapore in 2005. Two years later, she returned to the UK as Senior Lecturer and Reader at the Department of Geography and Associate Director at the Centre for Migration Policy Research, Swansea University, from 2007 until 2010. Piper then worked as a Senior Research Fellow and coordinator of migration research at the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute, Freiburg University. From 2012 until 2014 she assumed a position in Australia, where she worked as Associate Professor in Human Rights and Professor in International Migration at the University of Sydney. In 2016 she then again returned to Freiburg as a EURIAS Senior Fellow at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies.

Selected Publications

  • Piper, N.  (2015) ‘Democratising Migration from the Bottom Up: the rise of the global migrant rights movement’, in: Globalizations 12(5): 788-802
  • Spitzer, D. and Piper, N. (2014) ‘Retrenched and Returned: Filipino Migrant Workers During Times of Crisis’, in Sociology  48(5): 1007-1023
  • Piper, N. and Rother, S. (2012) ‘Let’s argue about migration: Advancing a ‘Rights’ Discourse via Communicative Opportunities’, in: Third World Quarterly, vol. 33(9): 1735-1750
  • Basok, T. and Piper, N. (2012) ‘ Management versus Rights: Migration of Women and Global Governance Organizations in Latin American and the Caribbean’, in: Feminist Economics, vol. 18(2): 1-26                                                                 
  • Grugel, J.B. and Piper, N. (2011) ‘Global governance, economic migration and the difficulties of social activism’, in: International Sociology , vol. 26(4):435-454


Reconceptualising Migrants Rights in a Global and Transnational Context

This project addresses the regulation of worker migration from a labour rights perspective set within a global and transnational context. The emergence of global migration governance, that is the increasing cooperation of states on a common framework for regulating the cross-border movement of people, occurs in an era of eroding labour standards, weakened trade union power and restrictive practices towards freedom of cross-border mobility of workers globally.

Parallel, and partly in response, to these institutional processes surrounding migration governance that have so far shown little concern for the upholding of labour rights, a global migrant rights movement has arisen, comprised of trade unions and migrant associations from around the world. The key advocacy issues for the global migrant rights movement are the right to work and rights at work. The question which arises from this scenario is how to advance the rights of migrants as workers in this current institutional climate characterized by fragmentation and marginalization of the International Labour Organisation (ILO): by focusing on their human rights as migrants, that is as non-citizens, or, alternatively, their labour rights as workers? How does the migration development framework allow the pursuance of realizing the ‘right to work’ in relation to the ILO’s decent work programs, the Office for the High Comissioner of Human Rights' (OHCHR) treaty body/UPR systems and the debate around the Sustainable  Development Goals? Taking the activist perspective as the starting point, the hypothesis advanced here is twofold: (1) that movement practices in migrant rights networks are putting forward increasingly coherent claims that transcend the conventional thinking about human rights (rights-assuming advocacy); and (2) such practices are effectively transgressing inter-state political arenas (participatory, rights-prod ucing politics).