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Constructing Images, Constructing Policy: the case of Filipina migrant performing artists

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ABSTRACT In 1991 a Filipina performing artist died while working in Japan. Her death became an international incident and a catalyst for action on the issue of migrant exploitation. In particular, a series of policies was constructed by the Philippine Government in an attempt to afford protection to migrant workers. In this paper I critically examine the construction of these policies, with the purpose of identifying how specific notions of gender and sexuality are incorporated into the construction and reconstruction of policy. I demonstrate how the representation of exploitation within systems of labor migration serves the purposes of dominant factors of society, with little regard to the actual lived experiences of migrant workers. Findings indicate that current policy is based on an image that only illegally-deployed, hence immoral and disreputable women are exploited, overlooking the observation that both illegally- and legally-deployed women are susceptible to abuse. At one level this paper reflects an ontological attack against the employment of categories previously conceptualized as natural within the construction of migration policy. At a second level this paper is also concerned with the issue of 'who speaks for whom,' and the implications of this for viable protective policies. The significance of this paper extends beyond the confines of the Philippines, for it encompasses a growing international awareness of abuses toward migrants.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1997

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