Follow the Maid: Domestic Worker Migration in and from Indonesia

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This fascinating study unveils the workings of the Indonesian migration regime, one that sends hundreds of thousands of women abroad as domestic workers each year. Drawing on extended ethnographic research since 2007, the book literally follows migrant women from one particular village in Central Java and tracks the moral, social, economic and legal processes by which they are turned into ‘maids’.

From recruitment by local brokers to the ‘training’ received in secluded camps in Jakarta, employment in gated middle-class homes in Malaysia and back home again, Olivia Killias highlights the implications of the migration process on gendered practices of labour mobility (and immobilisation). She also reveals the disciplinary power that states, recruitment agencies and employers exercise over migrant domestic workers as well as highlighting frictions within the system. Killias’s analysis demonstrates that ironically, the “legalisation” of the migration industry, under the joint pressures of the Indonesian migration bureaucy and international humanitarian agencies, does not automatically improve the situation of the women who embark on the migration adventure. Rather, Killias unmasks the gendered moralizing discourses on “illegal” migration and “trafficking” as legitimizing indentured labour and constraining migrant mobility.

By exploring the workings of the Indonesian state’s overseas legal labour migration regime for migrants, she brings the reader directly into the nerve-racking lives of migrant village women, and reveals the richness and ambiguity of their experiences, going beyond stereotypical representations of them as “victims of trafficking”. This is a study that will appeal to scholars and students as well as policy-makers, NGOs, journalists and many others engaged in issues of globalization, transnational migration and gender.

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This fascinating study unveils the workings of the Indonesian migration regime, one that sends hundreds of thousands of women abroad as domestic workers each year. Drawing on extended ethnographic research since 2007, the book literally follows migrant women from one particular village in Central Java and tracks the moral, social, economic and legal processes by which they are turned into ‘maids’.

From recruitment by local brokers to the ‘training’ received in secluded camps in Jakarta, employment in gated middle-class homes in Malaysia and back home again, Olivia Killias highlights the implications of the migration process on gendered practices of labour mobility (and immobilisation). She also reveals the disciplinary power that states, recruitment agencies and employers exercise over migrant domestic workers as well as highlighting frictions within the system. Killias’s analysis demonstrates that ironically, the “legalisation” of the migration industry, under the joint pressures of the Indonesian migration bureaucy and international humanitarian agencies, does not automatically improve the situation of the women who embark on the migration adventure. Rather, Killias unmasks the gendered moralizing discourses on “illegal” migration and “trafficking” as legitimizing indentured labour and constraining migrant mobility.

By exploring the workings of the Indonesian state’s overseas legal labour migration regime for migrants, she brings the reader directly into the nerve-racking lives of migrant village women, and reveals the richness and ambiguity of their experiences, going beyond stereotypical representations of them as “victims of trafficking”. This is a study that will appeal to scholars and students as well as policy-makers, NGOs, journalists and many others engaged in issues of globalization, transnational migration and gender.

 

Publisher: NIAS Press

Paperback

2017

ISBN: 9788776942274