La Philippine au-delà de son travail reproductif
This panel explores the role of the Filipina Migrant Worker in Canada and beyond in terms of her reproductive labour. Panelists will explore how her labour is understood in terms of knowledge building in a post-COVID world, emotional labour and affective relationships, and womanhood in hetero-normative frameworks.
Chair/Président: Valerie Damasco, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Discussant/Intervenant: Valerie Damasco, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
For Marxist Feminists Sylvia Federici (2019) and Maria Mies (2014), neoliberalism via World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies have evolved into “new enclosures,” which steal, colonize, and commodify “the commons” in the name of development and modernization. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further demonstrated this violence as a structural determinant to global health. Access to hospital care, effective vaccines, physical distancing, financial supports, and safe work have brought into question the needless disparities found globally (Buyum, et al. 2020). Yet throughout this troubling and uncertain time, the racialized body, specifically that of the Filipina, endures to provide the social reproduction and labour necessary to flout today’s emanating global economic crisis. As the Filipina migrant is hyper-visiblized as a care worker and essential employee, how do we understand her knowledge, culture, and language within the realm of “the commons” in a post-COVID world? Do we feature her then as a commodity? Or do we argue of her work instead as a producer towards our collective survival? This presentation is an epistemological investigation of today’s Filipina migrant workers in care work and essential labour. Analyzing media reports on Filipina labour during the pandemic, I employ Virgilio Enriquez’s (1992) Sikolohiyang Pilipino and Marxist-Feminist theory to argue that the Filipina narrative is needed to convey the knowledge necessary to decolonize care and rationalize global health towards our collective survival.
Bettio et al., in their analysis of care work in the Mediterranean, put forward the thesis that there has been a “transition from a ‘family’ model of care to a ‘migrant in the family’ model of care” (2006, 272). I explore how the work of social reproduction in Canada has experienced a similar transition, one that has led to a new model of care—the “migrant as part of the family.” I investigate the process of how migrant workers in Canada who provide this labour are incorporated into the family units of their employers. This process of inclusion is presented as a positive act, one that is representative of the tolerance and acceptance that migrants can expect in multicultural Canada. However, the incorporation of the migrant worker leads to the obfuscation of the wage relationship and the exploitation of the worker; it creates conditions that attempt to subsume labour that is paid for by a wage, into labour that is expected as part of the social, affective relationship between and amongst family members. Thus, the collapsing of the lines between what is considered to be waged work and what is considered to be a labour of love invisibilizes the family unit’s dependency on and ongoing exploitative consumption of transnational, affective labour—in the Canadian case, often provided by women of Filipino descent.
A considerable amount of literature on Filipino women in Canada has been published focused on caregiving and reproductive labour, yet there has so far not been enough feminist attention to conceptualizing the figure of the Filipino woman beyond these parameters. Motivated by the desire to honour Filipino women’s labour, I ask how this labour gets translated to produce a certain model of womanhood inherently attuned to the demands of neoliberal capitalist globalization and easily mobilized by heteronormative institutional frameworks. Building on an archive of Filipinx/Canadian cultural productions including Tita Collective’s Tita Jokes, Han Han’s Babae Ka and Lester Valle’s Walang Rape sa Bontok, I trace a broad sketch of imaginative possibilities pertaining to an emergent diasporic and feminist consciousness embodied in the construction of babae. Tagalog for woman, babae not only invokes ancestral and precolonial understandings of feminine power, but also highlights the contemporary context of its vernacular function as a hybridized form of the local and the global. Using theories of queer affect, performance, and pedagogy, I argue for babae as a reparative project that can bridge varied articulations of Filipino womanhood. Against the current landscape of political and ecological crisis in the Philippines, this paper sutures a critique of the aesthetics of diasporic womanhood and vernacular cosmopolitanism with new indigenisms in multicultural Toronto to think through the political potential of their interconnections.
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