Reading Nh. Dini in Hong Kong and Eating Peruvian Food in Japan: Notes on travel, labor and migration

Reading Nh. Dini in Hong Kong and Eating Peruvian Food in Japan:
Notes on travel, labor and migration

Brigitta Isabella

1. Prologue
The figure of migrant is one of the veins that transport ideas and objects through the circulatory system of our modern world. The modern world is often characterized as fluid, in which the flow of capital, the stream of people and the flood of products follow multiple paths to keep the pulse of our modern life beating. The routes are driven by the endless economical and political turbulence of world politics and its velocity is accelerated by the development of telecommunication and transportation technology. Among this people on the move are businessmen, missionaries, vacationers, migrant labor, global pop stars and students. The pattern of migration in our current time has surpassed the movement across nation states. Globalization and migration, according to Papastergiadis (2010) is twin processes that have transformed the production of space. Migration traverses not only national borders but also the territorial border of our everyday life. Everyone is actually a migrant by now. The modality of our quotidian routine is composed and affected by movement from the village to the city, from job to job, from residence to another, from the window of our web browser to our smartphone screen, etc. However, the phenomenon of daily migration does not made us live in a borderless world. On the contrary, Papastergiadis notes, “While the flows of global movement are proliferating, the fortification of national boundaries is becoming more vigilant. Every nation-state is at once seeking to maximize the opportunities from transnational corporations, and yet closing its doors to the forms of migration that these economic shifts stimulate.” (2010:2-3)

The migrant labor is one of the dominant figures on the stream of migration in the era of neoliberal globalization. Their migration is the result from the experience of expulsion from economic, political, juridical and territorial status. They are also the most vulnerable figure in the increasing process of global migration. This present article is drawn from my field research during two residencies program at Para Site, Hong Kong and Dislocate, Japan, where I spent some time to study the condition of Indonesian migrant labor in both places. Reflecting on my encounter with two different contexts of labor migration, this article tries to make a relax comparison on the state of Indonesian migrant labor movement in Hong Kong and Japan and seeks theoretical frameworks from tourism studies lead by Zygmunt Bauman and the theory of migration and spatial aesthetic from Nikos Papastergiadis.

The aim of unpacking these theoretical tools is to approach the problem of labor migration from cultural and philosophical framework. There are already abundant social science researches that study labor migration from the perspective of international politics and economic relation. These literatures are useful in explaining the neoliberal capitalist mode of exploitation. However they tend to look at the social division of labor migration in a binary mode, which charted migration according to global division from the rich to the poor, from rural to urban, from the South to the North. First, the limit of this explanation tends to reproduce the social division and the unproductive boundaries between guest/host, family/foreign, home/away, and local/international even though they are thinking of social transformation through improving the migrant labor policy. Second, the literatures tend to identify migrant labor as powerless group of poor people whose movement controlled by economic determinism and the nation state forces, thus underestimate the agency of migrant labor. This present article attempts to expand the meaning of labor migration less as movement across border than subtle motion of displaced subjectivities. Reflecting at the state of social movement among migrant workers in Japan and Hong Kong, the deterritorialization of culture that the migrant workers have brought through the act of travel is considered to be social transforming forces.

2. The Tourist and The Vagabond – Temporariness in Labor Migration
The stream of Indonesian labor export has started since the late 1970s, in the era where Indonesia maintained open economies policy and entering the network of new industrializing countries of Southeast Asia through ASEAN since 1967. ASEAN community embraces trade liberalization and export-led growth strategy, and one of the important challenges to the regional relations is the issue of migrant labor. In the mid-80s, the rapid economic growth of the “Asian Tigers” (Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) and the declining fertility rates in those countries has made the demand for migrant labor increased among the Asian developing countries (Kaur, 2009: 288). Subsequent to the financial crisis that hit Asia in 1997-1998, Indonesia and the Philippines became the largest labor exporter in South East Asia. The crisis also influenced the feminization of labor migration in both countries.

The Indonesian government statistic in 2015 reports Malaysia as the biggest recipient of Indonesian migrant labor, followed by Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Hong Kong, while Japan sits at the 15th place. The number of Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong sums around 150.000, 90% of them are women working as domestic workers and Indonesian is the second biggest migrant workers group after the Philippines. Meanwhile the number of Indonesian migrant workers in Japan is relatively small, only around 15.000 since the biggest group of migrant workers in Japan came from China, Brazil and the Philippines. Seventy percent of Indonesian migrant workers are male and they are working in the field of manufacture industries, construction, agriculture and fisheries.

Certain that migrant labors travel abroad with dreams on their suitcases. Yet more often that not, their dreams are superseded with tears. Indonesian migrant labors are vulnerable since the beginning of their journey. Starting from the point of recruitment, many are misled by labor brokers about their wages or conditions abroad and some have to pay excessive fees to get their job applications accepted. Many of the abuse cases related to the lack of transparency on working condition and failure to provide sufficient information about their rights prior to departure. Throughout the recent years, reports have shown that migrant domestic workers often receive severe form of exploitation, which includes psychological, physical and sexual abuse particularly from Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. One of the most famous cases is of the suffering abuse that Indonesian migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, had to receive from her employer. The detailed story of the high degree of violence that Erwiana had to face can be found elsewhere in the mass media. Erwiana’s case is a special one because she is brave enough to bring the case to Hong Kong’s court in demand for justice. Her courage attracted the international attention and TIME magazine’s listed her as one of 100 most powerful people in 2014. I will elaborate more on the state of social movement among Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong later in the latter part of this article.

In Japan, the degree of violence that Indonesian migrant workers have to experience perhaps less dramatic than several cases of abuse among Indonesian migrant domestic workers. However, the working condition that the workers have to deal in Japan with is far more notorious compare to other countries and their stories are less visible to the public. Most Indonesian migrant workers came to Japan the G-to-G program called The Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) that was signed in 1993. Private recruitment agency is also taking part in exporting “trainees” to Japan. The program is called training program because it is designed as a platform for three years technological knowledge transfer from the Japanese to the Indonesian people. However, the fields that they are working on do not require (or provide) any skills, and in this way the TITP is basically a deceitful strategy to import cheap labor. By labeling migrant workers as trainees, the government is systematically relinquishing the employer’s responsibility to provide migrant workers with appropriate labor rights (standard wages, insurance, holiday) as regulated by Japanese labor law.

In the inland of Ibaraki-ken, I met a group of twenty Indonesian male trainees who work in a chicken slaughterhouse. They live in a shared accommodation near the slaughterhouse provided by their employers. The location is so remote; it took one-hour bus ride from their house to the nearest train station and thirty minutes bicycle ride to the nearest minimarket. Around the area there are also Indonesian trainees working in vegetable farms, some of them are female. While there is a routine working schedule in manufacturing factories, trainees who work in agriculture do not have a fixed working schedule. One of the trainee told me that that everyday he have to travel to different farms in Japan to catch chickens and dispatch them back to Ibaraki to be slaughtered. All trainees in this slaughterhouse know that they have one day off each week, but the holiday is not fixed because it depends on the daily supply of chicken. Moreover, because of the low wages that they earn, the trainees prefer to maximize their overtime work to gain more money.
I can keep on talking about the various level of harsh conditions that the Indonesian trainees have to deal with, but fortunately there are already a few social science scholars that gave attention to this issue.

The Japanese migrant labor law made a very strict regulation on residency and under the training program, the contractual agreement is limited to three years with no chance for the workers to come back to Japan. Due to a larger demand on labor force, particularly related with the need of construction workers for the upcoming 2020 Olympic which Japan is the hosting country; there is a plan to extend the contract to five years. The nature of this temporary working contract regulation for migrant labors corresponds to the shift of working culture in Japan itself. Japan’s tradition of lifetime employment, which derived from the model of family capitalism, has majorly shifted and almost 40% of Japanese workforce is now a part-time or casual worker. The increase use of non-regular workers is considered to be the essential step to be taken for reviving the sagging economy that Japan has faced since mid 1990s. With a more flexible labor market arrangement, companies are able to reduce non-wage costs such as bonuses, social security and health insurance. However, it is the workers that have to bear the social and economical cost of this arrangement. Besides having less job security, the temp workers are earning less the half pay of the permanent workers although they are basically doing the same working amount as if they are a full time workers.

Nevertheless, for some Japanese youngsters the choice to work in a temporary employment model is a conscious decision in order to achieve a proper work life balance that their seniors did not enjoy under the model of lifetime employment. The loose commitment to work is a character of our contemporary life, which Zygmunt Bauman calls as “the tourist syndrome.” The tourist syndrome lends certain aspects of the tourist experience such as temporariness, insecurity and the feeling of not belonging which occurred in the practice of our everyday life (2003: 207). The unstable movement from job to job due to the free market of labor arrangement is precisely the kind of tourist syndrome that Bauman discusses. The absence of firm commitment is part of the contemporary consumerist life style. Capitalist industry provides us with temporary pleasurable sensations that materialized in commodities that quickly distributed and consumed to follow the latest trend of fashion, gadget, pop music and TV series. This is the feature of tourist syndrome that Bauman identifies as “the grazing behavior.” Knowing that they only stay in one place in a short term, tourists seek for un-experienced taste and sensations; looking for “pure meaning that it has no other purpose than the consumption of pleasurable sensation and that once the satisfaction wanes, it wilts and fades as well.” (Bauman, 2003: 208). Being a tourist for life is living from one insubstantial moment to another with no worries about long-term consequences of what one’s doing at the moment.

The dark side of the tourist figure is what Bauman called as the vagabond, or in our case, the temp workers and the migrant workers or “the trainees” who do not have the ability to decide where and when they can travel. The vagabonds are always living in the state of insecurity as they are not staying in a place as long as they want, but as far as they are wanted (Bauman, 1998: 96-97). Their time and energy is exploited by the Capital in order to maximize the labor during the short-term contract agreement. When they are seen to be “finish”, not useful anymore or too demanding, then it is time to find another source of cheap labor. With such temporary ties with a workplace, there is no initiative to elaborate rules of engagement between the workers and the employers. Why one has to struggle for better working condition when the working contract only lasts for short duration? Why one has to complain about the political condition in a certain place when one is only acting as a tourist? There are no single Indonesian migrant workers union in Japan or a strong community bound because people is coming and going too fast. Before they got to know each other and built a meaningful relationship (either with their colleagues or with the Japanese people) they already have to leave the country. Language difference also contributes to the uneasiness of communication between the migrant workers and the Japanese. The migrant workers experience in Japan is only a matter of work, work and work. Perhaps this is precisely what the Japanese conservatives want, “Let them in, but keep them at a distance.”

3. The Production of Space through Labor Migration
Another aspect that restrained Indonesian migrant workers in Japan to develop a self-organized community is the fact that the Indonesian migrant workers are dispersed in several remote areas in Japan. The overtime jobs that they are taking and the expensive cost of transportation made hard for the Indonesian migrant workers to have frequent physical gatherings. The way migration produces a shared space to live in is important matter for substantial cultural encounter. However, the way authority organized space is susceptible to such encounter. Bauman regards that our world is basically divided into two places. They are “those places where tourists are carefully ushered into and through, and those places they are prevented from seeing.” (Bauman, 2003: 207) The structure of our urban landscape is organized with the logic of tourism. Monuments, parks and all those beautiful shops are located in the central area of town. Factories and farms are placed in the rural with limited access of transportation. The latter is the kind of place where the Indonesian migrant workers are sent to work. They remain invisible in the pulse of daily live, although they are the key figure that keeps the daily live going on.

The urban environment in Hong Kong, on the contrary, provides a productive shared social space for the migrant workers to occupy. Indeed the scale of territory between Japan and Hong Kong is clearly different. Hong Kong is a “city-country” and it has always been an international trade hub with inhabitants of various nationalities. The Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong are known to turn the biggest park in Hong Kong, Victoria Park, to be their huge picnic ground every Sunday. On weekdays the basketball court and the tennis courts inside the park are used by Hong Kong residents, tourists are also resting alongside Indonesian migrant workers enjoying their rest days or waiting to pick up their employer’s kids from school who often stop by this park to hang out or have lunch. The division of space by ethnicity is still apparent in Hong Kong. The Indonesian migrant workers create their territory in the Victoria Park on their day off, while the Filipinos migrant workers usually gather around the Central Station. Around Victoria Park, there are many shops and restaurants that sell Indonesian goods and many advertising are written in Indonesian language. The area has become a small Indonesian village.

Similar situation also apparent around the “territory” of the Filipinos migrant workers, where shops, restaurant and karaoke bar are targeting Filipinos consumers. However, the division of space in Hong Kong still gives a field for intercultural interaction. Just standing by on the street in central Hong Kong, one can hear the traversing sound of different languages. Several tourists and Hong Kongers sometimes visit Indonesian or Filipinos restaurants, thereby the idea of “local” Hong Kong identity becomes more liquid, as one could experience different cultures in one place. Indeed, all organization of space is always constructed through the social division of race, class and gender, however “space is both a transformative force and a field that is transformed by the interactions that occur within it.” (Papastergiadis, 2000: 52) The ability of migrant workers to exercise their visibility has produced a multiple configuration of space that transforms the identity of Hong Kong.

The socio political flows and the continuous making of shared social space in Hong Kong has made possible experiment of identities among Indonesian migrant workers. In this regards, identity is not always rooted to a place of origin but rather a formative process that constitute and constituted by the spatial configuration (Papastergiadis, 2000: 52). Whilst in their daily life as domestic workers many of these women remain ignored and marginalized from the pulse of Hong Kong metropolis, on the weekend one sees their efforts at reclaiming their individual and communal identities at Victoria Park. On their Sundays in Victoria Park many of the women dress differently from their everyday work attire: whether wearing a veil or mini skirt, many feel free to perform their identity to some extent. Gathering in a public space becomes a way of asserting their presence and togetherness. In Victoria Park, Indonesian migrant workers sit together for picnics, creating small groups assembled from various kinds of affiliations, be it similar hometown, religion, sexual preferences, hobbies or just because they happened to came from same working agency in Indonesia.

One activity that caught my attention was the presence of several mobile libraries around Victoria Park. These libraries are initiated by either individuals or groups of migrant workers who are passionate about reading and writing. The use of a suitcase for book storage evokes a poignant reminder of the act of travel, of what has brought the workers to this city in the first place. The migration of books from Indonesia to Hong Kong resonates to the migration of identities among the migrant workers. The migration of books brings a spectrum of interpretations that embedded with the spatial, social, economical and political context of the reader. Particularly in this case through the act of reading and writing, migrant workers crosses the class division between the intellectual and the menial. In Indonesia, it is rather hard for a woman from small village to access books. Most of Indonesian migrant workers are only high school graduates. By working in Hong Kong, these women gain economic independency and are able to develop interests that were not possible to pursue if they stayed in their villages due to social and economical restriction.

In Hong Kong, Indonesian women are able to join political organization, play in a metal band, learn violin, become a journalist for local paper or pursue further education in university. However, this migration of identity is not simply a movement from one identity to another. The social motion in labor migration is more complex than a simple forward direction, and indeed the formation of identity, as Papastergiadis explains, is always formed through dislocation (Papastergiadis, 2000: 53). For example, a domestic migrant worker in Hong Kong might be an entrepreneur businesswoman who invests her money back in her village; thereby her identity rests between being an employee as well as an employer. Another significant social motion is the transformation of position between men and women in a family, where in most cases the migrant domestic workers became the backbone for their family and sometimes they have more bargaining power to their husband (which explains the fact that many Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong are divorced with their orthodox husbands).

This brought us to the discussion of affective dimension in labor migration. In Hong Kong, most migrant workers are performing domestic service. Meanwhile, Japan is increasingly importing nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines due to the encouragement of having more Japanese women to join the workforce and disproportional number of senior citizen in the country. The Japanese government is also starting to open the door for domestic workers in several special economic zones. Moreover, the phenomenon of Southeast Asian female marriage migration to Japan since the 1980s economic boom has developed to be a profitable (risky) business for foreign bride brokers. Various types of affective labor are actually having the potential to create intercultural understanding that starts from domestic spaces. In Hong Kong, interaction happens in domestic spaces through food as the clear case in point. Domestic workers bring their cooking technique and “local” tastes to the table of their employers. Sometimes it creates a harmonious relationship between the employers and the employee, but of course sometimes it also produces conflict. In the act of cooking, domestic workers is translating cultural differences, and the act of translation “is always an encounter with the resistance of the untranslatable” (Papastergiadis, 2000: 139). The untranslatable can be the source of conflict, yet conflict can be a productive action for deterritorizalizing culture. The notion of translation allows us to think culture as an ongoing process rather than a place rooted identity. The zone of cultural difference should be thought as a place that produces identities and the tension between differences is able to produce the driving energy for further interactions.

In Ibaraki, Japan, there is an Indonesian café owned by an Indonesian woman who had divorced from her Japanese husband. When I was there, I ate a delicious beef stew which successfully relieved my longing for the rich spices of Indonesian food. The café also has a small shop that sells Indonesian food ingredients such as tempe (soy cake) and sambal (chili sauce). Indonesian migrant workers often eat and hang out in the café, and the owner told me that a few Japanese people sometimes also eat in her place. My emphasis on the existence of Indonesian café in Japan does not suggest the need to develop an ethnic base community for migrant workers. Rather, I am suggesting a production of space which able to create further cultural interaction; a space that is able to untangle preconceived stereotypes. The struggle for demanding a better migrant labor regulation often focuses on economic matters, yet it is also important to think of material condition beyond economic determinism. The configuration of space to create cultural interaction should coincide with the effort of improving the labor law. If not, it would only reproduce the same social division that has been organized by the authority. The dimension of cultural struggle is aiming at making people realize that they are sharing spaces with others, i.e. the migrant workers who have equally contributed to the political and economical flow of their everyday life. Papastergiadis (2000: 146), again, says it very well: “No culture can sustain itself, or at least not for long, through isolation or exclusion.”

4. Reading Nh. Dini in Hong Kong and Eating Peruvian Food in Japan

Nh. Dini (1936) is an Indonesian writer who worked as a flight attendant in her mid 20s. Later she married to a French consul in Kobe, Japan and during her marriage she travelled to Phnom Penh, France, Manila and Detroit to follow her husband. Many of Dini’s writings are inspired from her travelling experience in which the feeling of longing, alienation and cultural differences keeps on resonating. In relation with the project organized by KUNCI Cultural Studies Center, Para Site and a group of Indonesian migrant workers-writers called the Afterwork Reading Club, one of Dini’s writings titled “Instinct that Gives Foundation to Creation” was the first material that the club read. In the essay Dini explained the reader about her creative process as a writer. She wrote, “It was not easy when I became a housewife. My time was limited. Luckily my husband would provide me with a holiday on my own for a month at a time, sometimes maybe more. So during that time, I would be able to go to a friend’s quiet house, and re-write the parts I had managed to gather.” Dini’s essay became a starting (and contrasting) point for the club’s participants to discuss about their own struggle to be a devoted writer and how they have to conquer time in order to materialize their thoughts through the labor of writing. For the migrant domestic workers-writers, reading and writing is a struggle against the regime of Capital time. Living in their employer’s house, a domestic worker is basically working for 24 hours. One of the participants of Afterwork Reading Club, Arista Devi, wrote a short poem that subtly shows the scuffle and tussle of juggling between working and leisure time.

A Storm in Monday Morning

is there a holiday for us from reaping the storm
while the wind and the rain
could come without an invitation
although the party had over


From the Indonesian migrant workers-writers in Hong Kong, I learned that spatial configuration also includes the struggle to render time to be meaningful. The dynamic state of social movement in Hong Kong is resulting from the migrant workers’ ability to reclaim time for themselves and more importantly, time with others.

During my stay in Japan, one of the most unforgettable moments I had been when the leader of Kanagawa city union, (name?), generously treated me and Emma from Dislocate in a Peruvian restaurant near their office in Kawasaki. Kanagawa city union is a minority union that organizes migrant workers particularly Latin American workers from Peru, which are the biggest foreign labor group in Japan. Their activities also increasingly include foreign workers from Korea and the Philippines. While enjoying Peruvian food for the first time in my life, the leader told stories about the union’s long struggles in improving a better working environment for foreign workers in Japan by pursuing the responsibility from the government and the corporate. I am delighted that the leader took us to have Peruvian food for lunch rather than a Japanese food. Later did I know that Peruvian cuisine is a fusion of influences of the indigenous population in the Inca and the cuisine brought in with immigrants from Europe, Asia and West Africa. The presence of Peruvian food in Japan also must have been through the imbricating process of taste and flavor translation. Peruvian dish that I had in Japan is a proof of the deterritorialization of culture produced by migration.

At the end of our meeting, the leader invited us to join their upcoming routine daylong rally which the union organized every once every month. In what I consider as a “mobile rally”, members of the union made a trip to various black companies that are accused of doing irresponsible actions such as sudden dismissals, withholding wages or refusing to provide insurance for work-related accidents. The rally that I joined in December 2015 was followed by a group of around 15 people, consisted of the union staffs (some of them are Japanese that fluent in speaking Spanish) and several migrant workers from Latin America and the Philippines. The rally’s participants gathered in Kawasaki station at 9 AM and started to visit the companies that were on their itinerary that day by a small shuttle bus and some people that could not fit in the car used the underground train. We went to five black companies; among them were a small clinic in Kawasaki, JR Railway Company and Taisei Corporation. The itinerary was arranged based on the reports that the union received from the migrant workers.

The first stop was to a clinic that is located in a quiet residential area in Kawasaki. In each stopover, the group started the rally by singing together the mars of Kanagawa city union and Internationale, both in Japanese and Spanish. The group usually stayed for around 20-30 minutes in each place. It was such a remarkable experience to hear the Spanish version of Internationale invading Tokyo’s clean air since it is rare to hear the sound of other languages in Japan. However, not so many people were really bothered with the clamoring voices that came through the portable loudspeaker. Some residents came out from their house for a few seconds but then closed their door like nothing’s happened. It was only the clinic’s manager that seemed to be anxious although he could not do anything to stop the rally since the Japanese labor law protects everyone to express their opinion in public about labor related issues. There were two patrol policemen who happened to be in the area, but they looked confused and unprepared for such disruption of their “normal” everyday life.

The situation was a bit different when we arrived at the front of JR Railway Headquarter in Tokyo. The company was already prepared to “welcome” the rally, or even a bit too prepared, since there were around ten security guards shielded the company’s main entrance. At the building’s façade, there was a running text display that claimed JR had got nothing to do with the public action that accused their company’s name. The street in front of JR Headquarter was filled with many passersby, yet not many of them care enough to know what’s going on or even bother just to accept the flyers that the rally’s participants hand over. However, it is incorrect to think of the mobile rally as a useless action. We should think of social movement as rhizomatic flows which consistently perform resilient acts in different scales. Rhizomatic social movement, in Deleuzian sense, “is not simply a process that assimilates things, rather it is a milieu of perpetual transformation” (Coleman in Parr, 2010: 235). The alteration of social environment is pursued through multiple journeys that assembled of complex encounters and various ways of entering the “capital bodies.”

It is true that the rally has not really caught public attention, at least from what I witnessed during the rally. However, what is notable from Kanagawa city union’s mobile rally is their amazing consistency in giving “a stage” for the clamor of the migrant workers and bringing them into different established spatial configurations. In each stopover, the participants were given the opportunity to speak through the loudspeaker. Speaking with a broken Japanese or their mother tongue language, the migrant workers are exercising and reclaiming their voice and presence in the public place. The mobile rally can be thought as a performative intervention which disrupts the cohesive spatial and social space by mobilizing the disobedience gesture of migrant workers.

The last stop of the rally that day was at the Taisei Company, which hires many migrant workers to clean up the contaminated Fukushima area but neglects to provide their workers with health insurance. The group managed to enter the office’s lobby, and it caused a small chaos to the company’s elegant reception area. Imagine a group of fifteen people sang Internationale at a polished office lobby. The security guards were asking them to stop, but the group resisted and continued to sing. One of the rally participants shouted through the loudspeaker, exposing the company’s corruption right in their face. It felt really good to irritate these officials although for a short amount of time. After feeling “satisfied” from intruding the company’s office, the rally’s participants left and had a lunch in a cheap Chinese restaurant nearby, where we had fun talking about everyday stories. The rally was intense but also it was also an exercise of collective happiness. The action that the union’s has taken is a combination of wit, courage, anger, stubbornness, frustration and lightheartedness. The corporates and the government might not suddenly change their policy after the rally, but the rally itself has been a joyful picnic that brought marginalized people together and developed the sense of collectivism. It is less about victory than sustainability.

Opportunities and dreams are what have brought the migrant workers to migrate. Their social mobility should not be stopped by the regime of social motion which is performed by corporates and the government just because they came as workers. Indeed, the process of labor migration is not only a matter of monetary transaction. As Papastergiadis points out, migration is not only a movement from place to place but also linked to the ability of this social motion to imagine an alternative (2000:11). Labor migration should be thought as an active force in social transformation and the figure of migrant workers is cultural agents that have the potential to rearrange the state-organized social cohesion and build up a new form of society constituted of cultural differences.


Bauman, Zygmunt, Globalisation: The Human Consequences, Cambridge: Polity, 1998.

Bauman, Zygmunt and Adrian Franklin, “The Tourist Syndrome,” Tourist Studies 2003 3: 205-217.

Kaur, Amarjit, “Labor Crossings in Southeast Asia: Linking Historical and Contemporary Labor Migration”, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 11, 1 (June 2009): 276-303.

Papastergiadis, Nikos, The Turbulence of Migration, Globalization, Deterritorialization and Hybridity, Cambridge: Polity, 2000.

Parr, Adrian (ed.), The Deleuze Dictionary Revised Edition, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.