Assistant Professor

PhD Sociology, University of British Columbia
MA Sociology, Concordia University
BA Sociology (Honours), University of British Columbia

Female faculty member

Research and teaching areas

  • Culture and Migration
  • Work and Employment
  • Globalization and Transnationalism
  • Class, gender, and ‘race’
  • Ethnography 

Current Research 

My research examines politics of international migration and the changing regulation of work, as labour markets are diversified through temporary labour programs. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I bridge the discipline of sociology with the fields of industrial relations, migration studies, international development, cultural studies, and ethnic and gender relations. I am particularly animated by the challenge of conducting innovative research that is empirically rigorous, theoretically informed and ethically sound.

Currently, I am working on a book manuscript on transnational recruitment practices of fast food workers to North America. Drawing from multi-sited, ethnographic field research conducted in the Philippines and western Canada, I trace the role of the social imagination in stimulating mobility desires and flows, emphasizing how dreams mediate desires for and practices of international migration. Empirically, I highlight front-end processes in transnational migration flows, global labour and migration policies, and the discourses and practices of the migration industry (as a diverse set of profit-driven actors) that shape the social contours and migrant institutions stimulating and sustaining transnational migration. My central contention is that dreams (like the “Canadian dream”) must be systematically analyzed to more fully grasp the multitude of economic and cultural forces shaping migration in what is increasingly a global market for (temporary) labour.

Concomitantly, I am working on another major project, initially funded through a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. Building on my past research, I add a third global field site (Mexico), labour-sending state (the Mexican state) and migrant subject (Mexican labour migrants) to the transnational analysis of service-sector labour migration. I am centrally interested in the distinct brokering strategies undertaken by labour sending states, and how national subjects are differently marketed and produced for low-waged, overseas work. I hope to advance comparative and transnational scholarship on the processes by which global migration policies, in concert with the worldviews of a host of social actors and sending-context dynamics, shape the cultural meanings associated with differently gendered, racialized, and otherwise situated subjects along a hierarchy of social dimensions.

Selected publications

  • Polanco, Geraldina (2016). “Consent Behind the Counter: Aspiring Citizens and Labour Control under Precarious (Im)migration Schemes.” Third World Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 8, pp. 1332-1350.
  • Polanco, Geraldina (2016). “Globalizing ‘Immobile’ Occupations: Fast Food under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program” in Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada. Aziz Choudry and Adrian Smith (eds.), PM Press, pp. 71-86.
  • Polanco, Geraldina and Sarah Zell (2016). “English as a Border-Drawing Matter: Language and the Regulation of Migrant Service Worker Mobility in International Labor Markets.” Journal of International Migration and Integration. (Online ahead of print). DOI: 10.1007/s12134-016-0478-9
  • Polanco, Geraldina (2015). “Culturally Tailored Workers for Specialised Destinations:Producing Filipino Migrant Subjects for Export.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. (Online ahead of print). DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2015.1091317
  • Polanco, Geraldina (2014). “Social Citizenship in an Age of Temporary Flows: Migrant Workers in British Columbia’s Immigrant Settlement Sector”. Transnational Social Review: A Social Work Journal, vol. 4, pp. 193-206.
  • Polanco, Geraldina and Cecily Nicholson (2010). “Reconstruction from the Viewpoint of Precarious Labour: The Practice of Solidarity” in Human Welfare, Rights and Social Activism: Rethinking the Legacy of J.S. Woodsworth. Jane Pulkingham (ed.), Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 262-292.
  • Reimer, Bill, Tara Lyons, Nelson Ferguson and Geraldina Polanco (2008). “Social Capital as Social Relations: the Contribution of Normative Structures” in Sociological Review, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 256-274.
University of Waterloo

Profiles by type