CAPABILITY OF CONTEXT: ACTIVISM AND RESIGNATION AMONG FILIPINO DOMESTIC WORKERS IN LONDON
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Labour migrants with uncertain permissions to remain in a new country are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Based on interviews with Filipino domestic workers, this paper explores the variation in migrants’ reaction to their present circumstance. Their response to injustice or neglect may fall anywhere along a continuum from abject resignation to aggressive activism. Our discussion concerns the capability of the context in which the migrant’s response unfolds. We ask: what could happen here? In this context, what kind of response makes better sense? But the answer changes according to the migrant’s focus. In the narrow context of this place at this time activism may not be feasible and what looks like resignation the only option. But if the context of response is expanded to include remittances which will send children to school or parents to hospital; and to visions of a better future back in the home country, then its capability changes. Resignation in the present maybe a strategy actively directed toward future goals. In this light resignation and activism are not fixed and opposite responses. The individual migrant combines them to match the capability of the context in which she defines herself.
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