Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of "Migrant Workers" in Canada.


216 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-8020-4883-8
DDC 331.6'2'0971




Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the author of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality.


The words Home Economics that begin the title of this book are to be understood figuratively. They are an expression of sociologist Nandita Sharma’s views that capitalism in conjunction with globalization has soured home economies as far as migrant workers are concerned. Other than this, it is difficult to explain what the book is about, since it exhorts repeatedly and approaches its subject in such uneven manner.


The first three chapters provide ruminations on the theoretical perspectives sociologists have brought to the questions of citizenship, national sovereignty, and nationalism. With more than 40 percent of the text consumed in navel-gazing fashion, another section looks cursorily at debates in the federal parliament surrounding the Non-Immigrant Employment Authorization Program between 1969 and 1973. Dr. Sharma then jumps to analysis of statistical information in which nary an immigrant or migrant worker voice is ever heard, although the themes of the authorial rhetoric are repeated constantly. The author assumes, but does not prove, that migrant workers are predominately non-white. She writes, “because migrant workers are not entering a ‘neutral ideological context’ when coming to Canada the NIEAP needs to be located within the ideological organization of the otherness of non-Whites both historically and during the time of its introduction.” Dr. Sharma thereby tries to connect racialism, capitalism, and nationalism, but capitalism never appears as more than a vague generalization and the author provides an unsophisticated account of nationalism that fails to differentiate it from the concepts of nation state and patriotism.


In wanting to assert her voice so forcefully, the author has neglected the voices of those studied. The study does not even include reference to one of the foremost earlier studies in this area, Victor Satzewich’s Racism and the Incorporation of Foreign Labour: Farm Labour Migration to Canada since 1945 (1991). Academic disciplines further societal viewpoints, but when they create in arcane manner they limit their audience to those advancing their careers.


Sharma, Nandita., “Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of "Migrant Workers" in Canada.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/32633.