Lai Wo

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10250

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Wo, Lai (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "Agrarian Aspirations of Intimate Labor Migrants: From Indonesia to Hong Kong and Back"

LAI WO, then a graduate student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded a grant in October 2021 to aid research on “Agrarian Aspirations of Intimate Labor Migrants: From Indonesia to Hong Kong and Back,” supervised by Dr. Mike McGovern. Indonesian migrant domestic workers occupy one of the most subjugated classes of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. While laboring abroad, they often straddle multiple social worlds — in their sending villages in Indonesia, within their employer’s homes, and with their compatriot migrant friend groups in their placement countries. This project follows the remittances from migrant workers who must navigate competing obligations within these multiple worlds and negotiate the “choiceless decisions” — decisions around abstract desire and material needs, immediate and future return, and personal gain and selfless sacrifice. Examining the decision-making processes offers insights into the internal, moral, economic, and existential deferrals required of the migrants as they strive to achieve what is imagined to be a good life to come. Tracking migrant remittances from intimate economies in Hong Kong back into rural economies in their migrant-sending villages in Java, this dissertation research aims to explore how migrants might negotiate moral ambivalences, gendered relations of power, and imaginations of futurity.