Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS)Waseda University


SUNAM, Ramesh


SUNAM, Ramesh




Assistant Professor



Monthly Spotlight

[Monthly Spotlight] is focusing on a researcher to introduce his/her research.
Labor mobility – What is it like to be a migrant?

Research Topic

Rising Transnational Labour Migration within Asia and Precarity: Implications for Rural Asia

With deepening globalisation, rural people are now highly mobile in Asia. This is producing profound socio-economic and environmental changes in Asian rural areas, where over half of the world’s poor live. To complement the existing, dominant literature on rural-urban and South-North migration, I focus on rising South-South labour mobilities occurring within Asia, which involve millions of rural people, mostly the poor, less-educated and low-skilled people. My research examines the closely interconnected processes and outcomes of labour migration and its effects on rural livelihoods. In doing so, I analyse i) the processes of international labour migration and varied precarious (or positive) experiences of migrant workers throughout their migration journey from migrants’ origin places to destination countries; and ii) the implications of migration and precarity for poverty and rural livelihoods in migrant-sending rural areas. To this end, this research involves critical migration and development policy analysis as well as microscopic multi-sited fieldwork in labour sending countries such as Laos and Nepal and labour-receiving countries such as Japan, Thailand and Malaysia. This research seeks to contribute to the emerging theoretical and empirical literature on underexplored precarity and South-South migration with the specific insights generated from the study of labour mobilities occurring within Asia. This project will also produce policy insights for promoting beneficial and safer form of international labour migration, and generate highly relevant findings for policy discussions about migration-driven development in the Global South.

Education and Academic Employment

Ph.D. Australian National University (2015)
MA. Australian National University (2010)
BSc Tribhuvan University, Nepal (2005)


Assistant Professor, WIAS, Waseda University, Tokyo (Japan) (2019 -)
JSPS-UNU Postdoctoral Research Fellow, United Nations University (UNU), Tokyo (2016-2018)
Research Consultant, Irregular Migration Research Programme and Red Elephant, Australia (2016)
Research and Teaching Associate , Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University (2013 – 2016)

Fields of Research Interests

Human Geography
Anthropology of Development & Development Studies
International Migration
Rural Poverty & Agrarian Change
Environmental Governance
South Asia & Southeast Asian Studies

Academic Publications

Book chapters:

1. Sunam, R.K. and Jayasuriya, D. 2017. ‘People smuggling in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’. In Coyne, J., Nyst, M. (eds). People smugglers globally. Canberra: Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), pp. 18-22.

2. Jayasuriya, D., Sunam, R.K. 2016. ‘South Asia: Migrant Smuggling Data and Research’, in: McAuliffe, M.L., Laczko, F. (eds.), Migrant Smuggling Data and Research: A global review of the emerging evidence base. International Organization for Migration (IOM), pp. 187-210.

3. Sunam, R.K., 2015. ‘The significance of foreign labour migration and land for poverty reduction in Nepal’, in: Heshmati, A., Maasoumi, E., Wan, G. (eds.), Poverty reduction policies and practices in developing Asia. Springer, pp. 219-233.

Refereed Journal Articles:

4. Barney, K. and Sunam, R. 2018. Beyond Rural Routes: Gendered Migration, Agrarian Production and Forest Change in Java. Commentary on N. Peluso and A. Purwanto’s ‘The Remittance Forest’. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. 39: 37-40.

5. Sunam, R. K., 2017. In search of pathways out of poverty: Mapping the role of international labour migration, agriculture and rural labour. Journal of Agrarian Change, 17(1): 67-80.

6. Sunam, R.K. and Mccarthy, J.F., 2016. Reconsidering the links between poverty, international labour migration, and agrarian change: Critical insights from Nepal. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 43(1): 39-63.

7. Sunam, R.K. and Adhikari, J. 2016. How does transnational labour migration shape food security and food sovereignty? Evidence from Nepal. Anthropological Forum, 26 (3): 248-261.

8. Ojha HR; Khatri DB; Shrestha, KK; Bhattarai B;Baral JC;Basnett BS;Goutam K; Sunam, R.K.; Banjade MR; Jana S;Bushley B; Dhungana SP;Paudel D, 2016. Can Evidence and Voice Influence Policy? A Critical Assessment of Nepal’s Forestry Sector Strategy 2014. Society and Natural Resources, 29(3): 357 – 373.

9. Sunam, R.K. and Goutam, K. R. 2015. Agrarian future(s) of rural Nepal: Revitalizing peasant agriculture?, Himalaya, 35(1): 91-102.

10. Sunam, R.K., Bishwokarma, D. and Darjee, K.B., 2015. Conservation policy making in Nepal: Problematising the politics of civic resistance. Conservation and Society, 13(2): 179-188.

11. Sunam, R. K., 2014. Marginalised Dalits in international labour migration: Reconfiguring economic and social relations in Nepal. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40(12): 2030-48.

12. Ojha, H.R., Banjade, M.R., Sunam, R.K., Bhattarai, B., Jana, S., Goutam, K.R. and Dhungana, S., 2014. Can authority change through deliberative politics?: Lessons from the four decades of participatory forest policy reform in Nepal. Forest Policy and Economics, 46: 1-9.

13. Sunam, R.K., Paudel, N.S. and Paudel, G., 2013. Community forestry and the threat of recentralization in Nepal: Contesting the bureaucratic hegemony in policy process. Society and Natural Resources, 26(12): 1407-1421.

14. Sunam, R.K. and McCarthy, J., 2010. Advancing equity in community forestry: Recognition of the poor matters. International Forestry Review, 12(4): 370-382.


Refereed Conference Papers (published in full in the proceedings):

15. Khadka, M. and Sunam, R.K. 2018. Workforce diversity and reservation policy in Nepal: A strategic approach to strengthening women’s voice and visibility in formal employment sector. Research paper to contribute to the discussions at a regional ‘Women and the Future of Work in the Asia-Pacific’ Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, 31 January – 1 February 2018.

16. Sunam, R.K. 2011. Promoting equity in community forestry: recognition of the marginalized people matters. Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons. Hyderabad, India, 10-14 January, 2011.

Peer-Reviewed Policy Briefs:

17. Sunam, R.K., Mishra, R., Okitasari, M. et al. 2018. Implementing the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific: Insights from Voluntary National Reviews. UNU-IAS Policy Brief Series. United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability.

18. Banjade, M.R., R. Karki , Paudel, N.S. Sunam, R. K. Putting Timber in the Hot Seat: Discourse, Policy and Contestations around Timber in Nepal. Discussion Series 11.2. Kathmandu: ForestAction. 19 Google Scholar citations.

19. Sunam, R.K., Banjade, M.R., Paudel, N.S. and Khatri, D.B. 2010. Can bureaucratic control improve community forestry governance?An analysis of proposed Forest Act amendment. Discussion Paper Series 10.2. Kathmandu: Forest Action. 12 Google Scholar citations.

Book Review:

20.  Book review: Sunam, R. 2014. Review of Dalit in the Nepali Media: Participation and the Content by J. B. Bishwokarma. Himalaya, 34(1): 142-43.

Other Interests

Affiliated Academic Organizations

Development Studies Association (DSA)
International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES)
Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA)
South Asia Research Institute (SARI)
Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS)

  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellowship (2016-2018)
  • ANU Crawford School Doctoral Scholarship 2011-2015
  • Tiri Tiri Prize, 2010 The Most Outstanding Student Award, Master of Environmental Management and Development, ANU
  • Golden Key International Honour Society, 2009
  • ADB-Japan Postgraduate Scholarship Program (JSP) 2008-2010

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