ES Department Co-sponsorship for Center for Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS) Talk by Rhacel Parrenas; Professor at USC

Wed, October 14, 2020, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

The Philippine State Management of Domestic Worker Migration
Rhacel Salazar Parreñas
Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California

Hosted by the Center for Southeast Asia Studies, UC Berkeley. Co-sponsored by the Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

This lecture examines the Philippine state’s management of domestic worker migration with a focus on migration to Arab States. Drawing from participant observation of government-run mandatory predeparture orientation seminars and interviews with 85 migrant domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates, this talk addresses how the Philippine state recognizes and attends to the known vulnerabilities of migrant domestic workers in the region that is engendered by the arbitrary authority of employers including isolation, overwork and rape. The talk contests the dominant narrative that the state ignores these vulnerabilities, commodifies its migrant workers and views them as nothing but a source of foreign remittance. Instead, this talk describes the maintenance by the Philippine state of a robust migrant protectionist program that is centered on the establishment of minimum labor standards to mitigate the vulnerabilities of migration. Yet, how does the Philippines as a weak state enforce these standards? As this talk describes, the state promotes the complicity of workers to the authority of employers but at the same time encourages workers to resist employer abuse of this authority. This talk then examines the implications of this state management strategy to our understanding of the relationship of migrant domestic workers to the Philippine state, the vast majority of whom are otherwise disenfranchised rural women from remote areas of the country.

Prof. Parrenas has dedicated much of her research to examining and understanding the contemporary experiences of migrant workers, particularly those from the Philippines. She is widely recognized for her contributions to scholarship in this area, and her major books here include Servants of Globalization: Migration and Domestic Work, 2nd edition (2015), Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo (2011), and Children of Global Migration: Transnational Families and Gendered Woes (2005). She received the Jessie Bernard Award from the American Sociological Association in 2019 “in recognition of scholarly work that has enlarged the horizons of sociology to encompass fully the role of women in society.” She received her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley in 1998.

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