On Sentimental Orientalists, Christian Zionists, and Working Class Cosmopolitans
Filipina Domestic Workers’ Journeys to Israel and Beyond
Author: Claudia Liebelt
Within a global gendered economy based on an international division of labor, Filipina migrants have become nannies, maids, and caregivers in affluent homes in numerous Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Filipina migrants who seek employment as domestic workers abroad have been described as “classical” transmigrants who keep in touch with family members back home and commute between their countries of origin and their destinations. In this article — based on ethnographic research in Israel, Palestine, and the Philippines between 2003 and 2008 — the author argues that Filipina migrants are transnational in a much broader sense than commonly discussed in studies on migration: engaged in border-crossing journeys through a number of nation states, many Filipina migrants move on and on rather than back and forth. They do so within a global hierarchy of desirable destination countries, ranked according to the differences between nation-states with regard to salaries and the legal entitlements migrants can claim, the costs and risks migrants have to take in order to enter, and these countries’ overall subjective and imaginative attractiveness. By migrating on, Filipina domestic workers acquire an intimate picture of the Middle East “backstage.” Some even become self-proclaimed Middle Eastern experts or politically active Christian Zionists or sentimental Orientalists, who, in spite of their Christianity, miss fasting on Yom Kippur or during Ramadan as they continue their journeys toward Western Europe and North America, where they have hopes of living and perhaps gaining citizenship.