Why Mourning Matters: The Politics of Grief in Southeast Asian Narratives of Women’s Migration

Carlos M. Piocos III

DOI: https://test.crossref.org/

Abstract

This paper examines how migrant women’s lives are politicized through the work of mourning by analyzing how grieving over their deaths becomes a way of also claiming accountability from a nation-state that deploys its citizen-breadwinners. I employ critical discussions on mourning by Vicente Rafael, Pheng Cheah, and Judith Butler to analyze an OFW film and two Southeast Asian novels that present different responses to deaths of Filipina and Indonesian domestic workers: Joel Lamangan’s The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995), Jose Dalisay’s Soledad’s Sister (2008), and Rida Fitria’s Sebongkah Tanah Retak (A Lump of Cracked Land, 2010). While these texts are different—one is a melodrama, the second a faux-detective novel, the last one a novel inspiratif (“inspirational novel”)—all three portray how grief becomes an affective economy, in that it reproduces and circulates feelings, like pity, sympathy, rage, and reproach, that forges a community to either foster or forestall political action. My reading maps out how the bereavement over migrant women’s lives can lead to a more critical understanding of labor migration policies and discourses in the Philippines and Indonesia, opening the possibilities of social activism that not only transforms a national community but also transcends national boundaries among and between Filipina and Indonesian migrant women.


Keywords

Filipina and Indonesian Domestic Workers, gendered moral hierarchies, intersectionality, melodrama, sacrifice, transnational feminist activism, work of mourning

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)