The set of short papers that follows this essay reflect on the ways in which field-based research on contemporary social, economic, and environmental issues is conducted at the interface of academic and activist spheres of practice in Southeast Asia. While many academics, including several featured in this collection, see their research as activist in itself, it is also the case that institutional frameworks in different contexts in Southeast Asia construct the two categories as separate sets of practices. Our goal, then, is to explore the ways in which these practices come together.
I argue in this article that migrant workers’ resistance to neoliberalism, as seen through their participation in the migrant organizations highlights their ability to establish ‘spaces of power’ amid debilitating living and working conditions. This, then, illustrates how feminism in the 21st century is alive and well. In fact, the strengths of their activism show the transformative and radical possibilities of feminism by highlighting that structural transformations, and not only liberal attempts at inclusion, are necessary for gender justice.
By critically assessing Filipino migrants’ fraught and uneven experiences of the public, I illustrate how race and class hierarchies operate to mark Filipino temporary foreign workers as foreign ‘others’. Because public spaces are structured in gendered and racialized ways, Filipino migrants strategically navigate public spaces to ensure their safety and create their own spaces of belonging that give them refuge against xenophobia. I argue further that the paradoxical discourses of multicultural inclusion and economic protectionism invoke the figure of the ‘good’ migrant and the ‘bad’ migrant. These, in turn, promote contradictory actions towards migrants, whose public acceptance hinge on wildly variable and changing notions of inclusion/exclusion and economic acceptability. These lead to the passage of inconsistent policies where migrants are read as being ‘good’ one day, and as being ‘bad’ the next.
Is intersectionality relevant to activism? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the principles of intersectionality in activist campaigns? This paper answers these questions by critically appraising the work of Migrante-Canada and Gabriela-Ontario, two grassroots migrants’ organizations in Canada. Not only do Migrante-Canada and Gabriela-Ontario represent their members’ diverse and intersecting social locations, they also oppose the effects of interlocking power structures that exacerbate their members’ experiences of oppression. Ultimately, these case studies show that intersectionality provides activist organizations with a normative framework and guidelines for action and is best advanced through the use of a multi-pronged advocacy approach that engages multiple stakeholders, promotes strategically shifting portrayals of its members, and takes place in multiple scales.
The United Nations (UN) women’s rights movement has historically ignored differences among women by promoting notions of a unified global sisterhood. In order to rectify the exclusions wrought by equality and difference feminism, intersectional analysis that takes account of group and economic rights becomes crucial. Only then can women’s rights be universal.
This article assesses the economic precariousness faced by Filipina live-in caregivers during and after the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). Using survey data and focus group interviews, we argue that live-in caregivers’ unique pathway to immigration lead them to face economic challenges that are distinct from other immigrants. Not only do live-in caregivers face onerous employment conditions under the LCP, they have difficulties transitioning into the Canadian labour market because they face the following challenges: being stigmatized when entering the Canadian labour market, having to take costly educational upgrading courses while simultaneously working in ‘survival’ jobs, and having to be their families’ sole breadwinners. Despite these structural barriers, however, the live-in caregivers in our study strove to transition into Canadian society through their resilience and hard work. Regardless of the economic challenges that they themselves faced during and after the LCP, most saw their future in Canada and felt that coming to the country was “worth it.”
Female labour migrants face contradictory expectations. On the one hand, they are expected to be their families’ and communities’ economic saviours. On the other hand, they are expected to meet their maternal responsibilities even while they are abroad; otherwise, they face charges of maternal neglect. My goal in this article is to highlight how female migrant workers handle these conflicting demands. I discuss how migrant women simultaneously adapt to and challenge imposed family separation through the case study of Filipina live-in caregivers in Canada. They do this in two ways. First, they exhibit transnational hyper-maternalism which allows them to overcome accusations of neglect. They ‘mother across borders’ by providing for their families and by using technology to supervise, monitor and communicate with their children. In doing so, they reify and contest established gender roles. Second, they are active in civil society. In doing so, they highlight the negative consequences migrant women and their families face. Reconceptualized notions of motherhood characterize migrant women’s transnational parenting, while the desire to ameliorate the negative consequences of family separation and reunification explain their activism.