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"

My research examines the ways in which Indonesian migrant women navigate between intimate labor economies in Hong Kong and agrarian livelihoods in Central Java through their remittances. In addition to domestic labor, Indonesian women enter intimate relations with western expatriate men in Hong Kong’s entertainment district to supplement remittance earnings for livestock and land at home. While these remittances are indispensable for rural Javanese villages, the migrants’ participation in transactional intimacy also renders the money as morally-suspect.

Inspired by recent sociological research on the transformation of remittances into agrarian capital in Java’s state-owned forests (Peluso & Purwanto 2018), this project uses a feminist anthropological lens to track a comparable conversion process for morally questionable remittances from Hong Kong. Specifically, this project explores how agricultural livelihoods in Central Java can allow migrants who remit morally fraught earnings from intimate labor to re-insert themselves back into the moral fabric of their communities. By tracking how migrants they invest and allocate their earnings from intimate economies in Hong Kong back into rural economies in their migrant-sending villages in Java, this project aims to explore the ways in which migrants negotiate moral ambivalences, gendered relations of power, and imaginations of futurity.