Migration and Gender Politics in Southeast Asia

  • Brenda Yeoh


As a region that has experienced major socio-political and economic transitions in recent decades, Southeast Asia provides a rich and variegated terrain to explore the gendered lives and experiences of men and women in a globalizing world of increased migrations and mobilities. Relations of equality and complementarity between Southeast Asian men and women have long been thought to be a regional characteristic (Andaya 2007) but much has changed in recent times. Deeper incorporation of the region into the global world order provides a mobile context shaping the gendered experiences and micropolitics that men and women sustain in reproducing and resisting socio-cultural change and economic development. By the closing decades of the twentieth century, Southeast Asian women, in particular, have seen their lives transformed by rapid but uneven economic growth and development, the penetrating reach of global capital and international business, the strengthening of economic-cum-cultural nationalisms, the accelerated pace of urbanization, downward trends in fertility, and the increasing feminization of labor migration in the region (Yeoh, Teo and Huang 2002). At the same time, Southeast Asian men are also experiencing pressures to perform masculine subjectivities differently or more flexibly, even if deep-seated transformations in gender ideologies or scripts are more resistant to change (Hoang and Yeoh 2011; Ford and Lyons 2012).


Download data is not yet available.


Agergaard, Jytte and Thao, Vu T. 2011. “Mobile, flexible, and adaptable: female migrants in Hanoi’s informal sector.” Population, Space and Place 17(5): 407-420. doi: 10.1002/psp.622.

Andaya, Barbara W. 2007. “Studying women and gender in Southeast Asia.” International Journal of Asian Studies 4(1): 113-126. doi: 10.1017/S147959140700054X.

Brickell, Katherine. 2014. “’Plates in a basket will rattle’: Marital dissolution and home ‘unmaking’ in contemporary Cambodia.” Geoforum 51: 262-272. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2012.12.005

Brickell, Katherine and Yeoh, Brenda S.A. 2014. “Geographies of domestic life: ‘Householding in transition in East and Southeast Asia.” Geoforum 51: 259-261. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.10.007.

Douglass, Michael. 2006. “Global householding in Pacific Asia.” International Development Planning Review 28(4): 421-446. doi. 10.3828/idpr.28.4.1

Elmhirst, Rebecca. 2002. “Negotiating land and livelihood: agency and identities in Indonesia’s transmigration programme.” In Gender politics in the Asia-Pacific Region, edited by Brenda S.A. Yeoh, Peggy Teo and Shirlena Huang, 79-98. London: Routledge.

-------- 2007. “Tigers and Gangsters: Masculinities and Feminized Migration in Indonesia.” Population, Space and Place 13(3): 225-238. doi: 10.1002/psp.435.

Esara, Pilapa. 2004. “‘Women will keep the household’: The mediation of work and family by female labor migrants in Bangkok.” Critical Asian Studies 36(2): 199-216. doi: 10.1080/14672710410001676034.

Gaetano, Arianne M. and Yeoh, Brenda S.A. 2010. “Introduction to the Special Issue on Women and Migration in Globalizing Asia: Gendered Experiences, Agency and Activism.” International Migration 48(6): 1-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2435.2010.00648.x.

Hilsdon, Anne-Marie. 2007. “The musician, the masseuse and the manager: sexy mothers in Sabah.” In Working and Mothering in Asia: Images, Ideologies and Identities, edited by Devasahayam T. and Brenda S.A. Yeoh, 195-220. Singapore and Denmark: NUS Press and NIAS Press

Hoang, Lan Anh and Yeoh, Brenda S.A. 2011. “Breadwinning Wives and ‘Left-Behind’ Husbands: Men and Masculinities in the Vietnamese Transnational Family.” Gender and Society 25(6): 717-739. doi: 10.1177/0891243211430636.

Lam, Theodora. and Yeoh, Brenda S.A. 2014. “Long-distance fathers, left-behind fathers and returnee fathers: Changing fathering practices in Indonesia and the Philippines.” In Globalized fatherhoods: Emergent forms and possibilities in the new millennium, edited by Marcia C. Inhorn, Wendy Chavkin and Joese-Alberto Navarro, 103-128. New York: Berghahn.

Lam, Theodora, Yeoh, Brenda S.A. and Huang, Shirlena. 2006. “’Global householding’ in a city-state: Emerging trends from Singapore.” International Development Planning Review 28(4): 475-497. doi: 10.3828/idpr.28.4.3

Law, Lisa. 2000. Sex Work in Southeast Asia: The Place of Desire in a Time of AIDS. Routledge: London, New York.

-------- 2002. “Sites of transnational activism: Filipino non-government organisations in Hong Kong.” In Gender Politics in the Asia-Pacific Region, edited by Brenda S.A. Yeoh, Peggy Teo and Shirlena Huang, 205-222. London: Routledge.

Malam, Linda. 2008. “Bodies, beaches and bars: negotiating heterosexual masculinity in southern Thailand’s tourism industry.” Gender Place and Culture 15(6): 581-594. doi: 10.1080/09663690802518461.

McIlwaine Cathy. 1996. “The negotiation of space among sex workers in Cebu City, The Philippines.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 17(2): 150–164. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9493.1996.tb00090.x.

McKay, Steven. 2015. “’So they remember me when I’m gone’: Remittances, Fatherhood and Gender Relations of Filipino Men.” In Transnational Labour Migration, Remittances and the Changing Family in Asia, edited by Lan Ahn Hoang and Brenda S.A. Yeoh, 111-138, UK: Palgrave.

Mills, Mary B. 1997. “Contesting the margins of modernity: women, migration, and consumption in Thailand.” American Ethnologist 24(1): 37-61. doi: 10.1525/ae.1997.24.1.37.

Ochiai, Emiko. 2009. “Care Diamonds and Welfare Regimes in East and South-East Asian Societies: Bridging Family and Welfare Sociology.” International Journal of Japanese Sociology 18(1): 60-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6781.2009.01117.x

Ong, Aihwa and Peletz, Michael G, eds. 1995. Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia. California: University of California Press.

Parrenas, Rhacel S. 2005. “Long Distance Intimacy: Class, Gender and Intergenerational Relations between Mothers and Children in Filipino Transnational Families.” Global Networks 5(4): 317-336. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0374.2005.00122.x

-------- 2012. “The reproductive labour of migrant workers.” Global Networks 12(2): 269-275. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0374.2012.00351.x

Phouxay, Kabmanivanh and Tollefsen, Aina. 2011. “Rural-urban migration, economic transition, and the status of female industrial workers in Lao PDR.” Population, Space and Place 17(5): 421-434. doi: 10.1002/psp.620.

Pingol, Alicia T. 2001. Remaking Masculinities: Identity, Power and Gender Dynamics in Families with Migrant Wives and Househusbands. Quezon City: University Center for Women’s Studies.

Piper, Nicola. 2004. “Rights of Foreign Workers and the Politics of Migration in South-East and East Asia.” International Migration 42(5): 71-97. doi: 10.1111/j.0020-7985.2004.00302.x

-------- 2006. “Gendering the Politics of Migration” International Migration Review 40(1): 133-164. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2006.00006.x

Piper, Nicola and Yamanaka, Keiko. 2008. “Feminised Migration in East and Southeast Asiaand the Securing of Livelihoods.” In New Perspectives on Gender and Migration: Livelihood, Rights and Entitlements edited by Nicola Piper, 159-188. New York: Routledge.

Sobritchea, C. I. 2007. “Constructions of mothering: The experience of female Filipino overseas workers.” In Working and mothering in Asia: Images, ideologies and identities edited by Theresa W. Devasahayam and Brenda S.A. Yeoh, 173-194. Singapore: NUS Press.

Truong, Thanh D. 1996. “Gender, International Migration and Social Reproduction: Implications for Theory, Policy, Research and Networking.” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 5(1):27-52. doi: 10.1177/011719689600500103

Yea, Sallie. 2013. “Masculinity under the knife: Filipino men, trafficking and the black organ market in Manila, the Philippines”, Gender, Place & Culture 22(1): 123-142. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2013.832657

Yeoh, Brenda S.A., Chee, Heng L. and Vu, Thi K. D. 2014. “Global householding and the negotiation of intimate labour in commercially-matched international marriages between Vietnamese women and Singaporean men.” Geoforum 51: 284-293. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.09.012

Yeoh, Brenda S.A., Chee, Heng L., Vu, Thi K. D. and Cheng, Yi’en. 2013. “Between two families: the social meaning of remittances for Vietnamese marriage migrants in Singapore.” Global Networks 13(4): 441-458. doi: 10.1111/glob.12032.

Yeoh, Brenda S.A. and Annadhurai, Kavitha. 2008. “Civil Society Action and the Creation of ‘Transformative’ Spaces for Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 37(5): 548-569. doi: 10.1080/00497870802165502

Yeoh, Brenda S.A. and Shirlena. Huang. 2010. “Transnational domestic workers and the negotiation of mobility and work practices in Singapore’s home-spaces.” Mobilities 5(2): 219-236. doi: 10.1080/17450101003665036

-------- 2014. “Singapore’s changing demography, the eldercare predicament and transnational ‘care’ migration.” TRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia 2(2): 247-269. doi:10.1017/trn.2014.6.

Yeoh, Brenda S.A., Teo, Peggy and Huang, Shirlena, eds. 2002. Gender Politics in the Asia-Pacific Region. London: Routledge.

Ford, Michele and Lyons, Lenore, eds. 2012. Men and Masculinities in Southeast Asia. London: Routledge.