The prosperity of East Asia and the Middle East has stimulated substantial migratory flows from South and Southeast Asia since the early 1980s. The prevalent employment of foreign maids in this region exposes and aggravates inequalities among women in the global South. Since 1998, I have conducted in-depth interviews with and field observation on Filipina and Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers and their Taiwanese employers. I am completing a manuscript to be published by Duke University Press in 2006. This book examines the identity politics and boundary work in the migration links between Taiwan, a nouveau-riche Tiger, and the Philippines and Indonesia, two major labor-sending countries in Asia.
The book is entitled "GLOBAL CINDERELLAS: MIGRANT DOMESTICS AND NEWLY RICH EMPLOYERS IN TAIWAN." I use the metaphor of Cinderella to illuminate the paradoxical combination of emancipation and oppression in the overseas journey of migrant domestic workers. They seek jobs abroad to escape poverty and stress at home; they also embark on the journey to expand life horizons and to explore modernity. However, after crossing national borders, they found themselves within the employers' households, where they occupy a marginal space and their privacy is easily invaded. At work they act with deference, consistent with the role of a maid; only during days off are they able to put on makeup, jewelry and short skirts. Recruited to serve as the surrogate family and fictive kin of their employers, migrant domestics are nevertheless treated as disdained aliens and disposable labor. Although migrant women may partially achieve the goal of upward mobility in their material lives back home, Cinderella's happy ending remains a fairy tale for many who are trapped in the circular flow of international migration.
Home, socially perceived as a private haven sheltered from public chaos, now becomes a meeting place for global forces and a field of symbolic struggles and resistance. This book uses the theoretical lens of boundary-making to explore how migrant domestic workers and Taiwanese employers identify themselves vis-à-vis "others" across national and social divides. I develop the concepts "the continuity of domestic labor," "stratified otherization" and "transnational class mapping" to capture their multifaceted practices of boundary work. Everyday domestic life has become a microcosm of power relations and subject identities in the more globalized, yet more divided, world.