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.
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 a matrilocal village in upland Central Java, women who actively place themselves in a position to enter the migration pipeline, knowing that their lives abroad will be hard and even dangerous, and that staying in the village is an option. From recruitment by local brokers to the 'training' received in secluded camps in Jakarta, employment in gated middle-class homes within Indonesia and in Malaysia and back home again, Olivia Killias tracks the moral, social, economic and legal processes by which women are turned into 'maids'. The author's analysis uncovers the colonial genealogies of contemporary domestic worker migration and demonstrates that, ironically, the legalization of the migration industry does not automatically improve the situation of the women in its care. 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'.
Olivia Killias is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, University of Zurich, and has extended research experience in Indonesia and Malaysia.