No Longer a “Damsel in Distress”: Indonesian Migrant Returnee Women Living in a City
Stories and images of Indonesian women working overseas as domestic and factory workers or in so-called low-skilled occupations are becoming increasingly familiar. The majority of the stories are distressing and heartbreaking, dominated by tragic accounts that continue to strengthen discursive constructions of migrant women’s vulnerability. In this paper I want to put a different spin to the current discourse of TKW in Indonesia. More specifically, I want to begin to talk about former TKW who have now returned to Indonesia after their employment overseas. When the identity of these women are extracted, and framed in a single dimension and when the memory of migrant workers is thus collective as opposed to individual, how can we truly consider femininity and gender of an Indonesian migrant woman? In order to build more dimensions to this story, I take a group of women returnees who are disrupting such workings I discussed earlier that push women into so-called margins, migrant worker returnee-turned activists who advocate on behalf of migrant women workers both at home and overseas. I argue these migrant returnee-turned activists display a different brand of collective consciousness that one might expect from TKW, and instead occupy a place of innovation and transformation in the city, and confound and subvert gender-specific conceptualization of migrant women.
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