Labor + Migration + Culture – A Hong Kong Case Study

24th October(Sat) 15:00-18:00 @ Asia Women’s Resource Center

Brigitta Isabella has been observing the modes in which foreign domestic workers inhabit the city in Hong Kong.  While the marginal position of such workers is well documented and concerns have been raised about their treatment in the domestic environment as well as in society as a whole, Brigitta instead of directly tackling such issues, rather brings our attention to it through an investigation of the unique cultures which have arisen through the communities of workers and their mutual support for each other. It is widely known that although the central business district of Hong Kong is a hub of finance and investment, on Sundays the heated business people are displaced by huge crowds of domestic workers, largely from the Philippines and Indonesia, who descend upon the open plazas of banks and large corporations to engage in picnics, dance, singing and games. It is an impressive occupation of public space which clearly shows the heavy presence of those who may more often or not be pushed to the periphery. It is amongst these cultural activities that Brigitta has observed the phenomenon of the travelling library. Literally suitcases stashed full of books in the workers’ mother tongues, which are loaned out to those promising to take good care of them. A new intellectual and cultural space is being formed in public by the workers in the very limited leisure time that they have. Brigitta has responded to this by organizing regular after-work reading groups and examining further the discourses and study which these workers hold interest in. In the talk presented to Asia Women’s Resource Center she will share some of this research which brings insights not only into the social conditions of domestic workers in Hong Kong but also of cultural innovation which is happening an impact on the shape of the city itself.