Asian Studies Conference Japan

Saturday, June 19 - Sunday 20, 2004
Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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 Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 7: Room 207

Transmigrant Domestic Workers in East Asia: Remittances, Empowerment and Sexuality in Migration

Organizer: Brenda Tenegra, Ochanomizu University
Chair: Wako Asato, Ryukoku University

The purpose of this panel is to analyze how migrant domestic workers in East Asia negotiate newly created spaces from the perspectives of economic contribution, social/political empowerment and sexuality. In the process of new configurations of domestic work in the region, working women of receiving societies have contracted out household duties to other women from developing countries. Earlier studies have shown that this process has brought about a new marginalization of migrant women. The papers in this panel argue that while they are perceived as marginalized, women migrants maximize their resources to overcome various social and structural limitations. Restricted residence and vocational rights create spaces of resistance that have impact on the recipient community as well as on the home community. This panel widens the debate to include the role of sexuality in migration and that of social networks among migrant workers themselves, between sending countries, and of NGO networks covering the East Asian region. The dynamic space of negotiation affects institutions such as laws, regulations and social norms, that challenge and reshape their relative position vis-à-vis the larger society. This panel also examines specific social and structural limits that constraint these spaces of negotiation. All presentations are based on detailed fieldwork in sending and receiving societies.

1) Brenda Tenegra, Ochanomizu University
Beyond-the-Household Remittance from a Gendered Labor

The remittances from female migrant domestic workers remain by and large a neglected area in the field of international migration studies. If the remittances from this sector are taken into account, the magnitude of remittances and economic contribution to the sending economies as well as to the families and communities of individual female worker is likely to be more significant. This paper analyzes the potentially profound social and economic implications of female migrants’ remittances beyond the household, with particular attention to the community level. Conventional economic research on remittances overlooks the ways in which remittances may reshape migrant-sending communities, improving the lives of community members outside migrant households. This paper argues that the impact of remittances do not stop at the migrant-sending household. Drawing upon a survey in village Y in the Philippines and interviews with a group of Filipina domestic workers in Tokyo, this paper illustrates the impact of remittances on the community and on the social lives of the female migrants. Female migrants and their predominantly female networks send portions of their wages in cash or in kind as remittances to fund social projects in their community. This paper aims to contribute to the conceptualization of the impacts such remittance behavior may have for new modeling methods beyond the household model. It also seeks to examine the impact of such ‘beyond-the-household’ remittances on the social status of female migrants in the community.

2) Chiho Ogaya, Hitotsubashi University
Gendered Strategy and Aspiration of Filipina Migrant Domestic Workers: Multiple Dimensions of their Empowerment through Transnational Migration Process

This paper focuses on the gendered aspects of the strategy and aspiration of Filipina migrant domestic workers working in Asian region. In the context of the feminization of migration, migrant women, mainly solo migrant in the region, are agencies who actively make the decision of migration, try to manage their own life course by their own and balance between the individual aspiration and the contribution to the family, negotiating with the gender norm or gendered expectation toward them in the context of sending family and society. The case study of micro-level strategy and struggle of migrant women from the Philippines will be analyzed here. The agency of migrant women appears not only at individual level but also at collective level, depending on the social context of host society. They actively commit the social activities outside of work in receiving countries, to regain their self-confidence and, sometimes, to seek for upward mobility through transnational migration. Using case studies in the both sending and receiving society, such as the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore, this paper will discuss how the individual strategy and aspiration of migrant women could interact with the activities of them as a group in the host society and will explore the multiple dimensions of empowerment of migrant domestic workers who are generally situated in the restricted condition.

3) Amy Sim, University of Hong Kong
Sexuality in Migration: The Case of Indonesian Domestic Workers in Hong Kong

This paper seeks to analyse how migration maps onto and shapes sexuality and sexual behaviour, and to explore the resultant fluidities in migration. In post-Suharto Indonesia, the exponential increase of labour migration is indicative of a society in transition. In a situation where cultural sanctions determine appropriate behaviour, overseas migration for employment brings with it opportunities for levels of independence, wages and freedom from supervision, unheard of among older Indonesians. This paper analyses the mutability of sexuality, sexual choices and sexual behaviour, and examines the complex ways in which they intertwine in the migratory lives of Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong. It will highlight and question the paradigm of resistance and agency as factors for the conscious enactment of decisions that shape the intimate behaviour of these women. In addition, it will suggest that while the social body of migrant workers is molded by mechanisms and socio-political developments that are transnational, Indonesian migrant women – as marginalized, gendered subjects – negotiate values, desires and challenges, and attempt to lead meaningful lives in ways that are often at odds with post-modernist assumptions of resistance or agency. This paper also shows how the material conditions of migration and socio-cultural constructions related to sexual behaviour and the body place Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong at risk for acquiring STDs and unwanted pregnancies. In this study, particular attention will be focused on the values, ideologies, mapping-remapping of desires and the shifting norms of normative practices of those who transgress and those who police the transgressors.

Discussant: Wako Asato, Ryukoku University


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