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Servants of God : superior Christian identities amongst Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong Hulbert, Annemarie

Abstract

As Hong Kong’s economy has grown, increasing numbers of middle-class Chinese women have entered the workplace. Many of them have passed the responsibility for domestic labour to migrant workers, most of whom are women from the Philippines. Although the Hong Kong and Philippines economies are dependent on their labour and earnings, these domestic workers are not treated with gratitude. Instead, multiple images of Filipina migrant workers construct them as inferior both to their Chinese hosts and to women that remain in the Philippines. One response of Filipina migrants is to turn to the Catholic Church to find alternative meaning to their lives and work. In this thesis I propose that Catholicism provides the tools for some domestic workers to construct counter-discourses about themselves that contrast with the negative imagery they encounter. I argue that the prominence of the Catholic Church amongst migrant Filipinas is partly due to the positive identity it offers to these women. By using alternative measures of value, religious Filipinas construct themselves as superior to those around them. However, in doing so they discipline themselves to conform more closely to the desires of dominant social groups, thus reinforcing existing inequalities.

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