Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Filipina Workers

By Nicole Constable | Go to book overview

9
PLEASURE AND POWER

Had this book ended with a critique of institutionalized forms of power and their oppressive effect, it would have overlooked the importance of domestic workers' efforts to resist their oppression. To regard these women simply as oppressed by those "with power" is to ignore the subtler and more complex forms of power, discipline, and resistance in their everyday lives.

There is a tendency to view the situation in terms of broad patterns of transnational labor migration. It is easy to conclude that Filipinas, recruited from powerless sectors of the Philippine population, are simply and easily exploited by agents, employers, and governments and relegated to the lowliest of occupations. Several studies indicate, however, that Filipina domestic workers are not generally from the poorest and least educated sectors of Philippine society ( French 1986a; AMC 1991). Moreover, although subject to wider global political and economic patterns over which they have little control, Filipina domestic workers do not view themselves as passive pawns, although they often feel unempowered, subordinated, and subservient. For every domestic worker who expresses a sense of being propelled by circumstances, there are others who stress their choice in going to Hong Kong, in selecting a particular recruitment agency, and in remaining with or accepting a particular employer. They do so, in many cases, not because they are forced to but because they

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Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Filipina Workers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • 1 - Foreign and Domestic in Hong Kong 1
  • 2 - Global Themes and Local Patterns 17
  • 3 - Superior Servants 40
  • 4 - The Trade in Workers 59
  • 5 - Household Rules and Relations 83
  • Photographs 113
  • 6 - Disciplined Migrants, Docile Workers 125
  • 7 - Resistance and Protest 155
  • 8 - Docility and Self-Discipline 180
  • 9 - Pleasure and Power 202
  • References 211
  • Index 225
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