Decentering Citizenship follows three groups of Filipina migrants' struggles to belong in South Korea: factory workers claiming rights as workers, wives of South Korean men claiming rights as mothers, and hostesses at American military clubs who are excluded from claims-unless they claim to be victims of trafficking. Moving beyond laws and policies, Hae Yeon Choo examines how rights are enacted, translated, and challenged in daily life and ultimately interrogates the concept of citizenship.
Choo reveals citizenship as a language of social and personal transformation within the pursuit of dignity, security, and mobility. Her vivid ethnography of both migrants and their South Korean advocates illuminates how social inequalities of gender, race, class, and nation operate in defining citizenship. Decentering Citizenship argues that citizenship emerges from negotiations about rights and belonging between South Koreans and migrants. As the promise of equal rights and full membership in a polity erodes in the face of global inequalities, this decentering illuminates important contestation at the margins of citizenship.
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Hae Yeon Choo is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Affiliated Faculty of the Asian Institute and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.
Contents and Abstracts
1Decentering Citizenship: Perils, Promises, Possibilities
This chapter delves into the paradox of citizenship-the allure of equality alongside its perpetually unfulfilled promise-by situating the pursuit of citizenship in the complex terrain where people come together to seek dignity and security in an unequal world. This chapter attends to the margins of citizenship, the heart of the struggle for migrant rights in South Korea. Margins are not simply determined by structural forces and imposed exclusion; they are also full of vibrant contestation that shifts and remakes the borders of citizenship. This chapter revealed that struggles around citizenship do not begin and end with legislation but rather involve continuous on-the-ground negotiation and subject-making through labor processes, civil society mobilization, and moral boundary-making. This chapter offers a theoretical overview of citizenship and introduces the ethnographic study and setting.
2The Journey of Global Women: From the Philippines to South Korea
This chapter examines how Filipina women navigate a migrant journey of multiple border-crossings under the exclusive migration regimes in Asia. As the Philippine state engaged in the "labor brokerage" of its citizens for migrant labor export, these women left the Philippines to labor in various factories, hostess clubs, and private homes throughout Southeast and East Asia and the Middle East as contract migrant workers and wives. Some carved out a space in South Korea against a restrictive immigration policy while others aspired to continue their transnational journey, planning their next step to an often unknown destination in the United States, Canada, or Europe, where they hoped to achieve socioeconomic mobility, permanent residency, and family unification. Through the narratives of Filipina migrant women, this chapter situates their seemingly endless journey within a transnational landscape where working class women's mobility is encouraged but security and citizenship are just out of reach.
3Duties, Desires, and Dignity: South Koreans on Migrant Encounters
This chapter asks what the migrant encounter means for contemporary South Koreans, exploring diverse groups of South Koreans such as migrant activists, volunteer Korean language teachers, and pastors of migrant churches. It highlights the gendered and generational aspirations that led them to work with migrants as they search for a sense of national belonging, new forms of sociability, and membership in global South Korea. These South Korean women and men occupied diverse roles as directors of multicultural education centers, volunteers, social workers, and migrant worker activists. These individuals assigned heterogeneous meanings to their work with migrants, which they used to pursue their personal aspirations and their aspirations for the South Korean nation. Their narratives provide a glimpse into the social lives of South Koreans who came into direct contact with migrants through their gendered labor to delve into shifting meanings of citizenship and belonging in a globalizing South Korea.
4Everyday Politics of Immigration Raids in the Shadow of Citizenship
This chapter takes a close look at immigration crackdowns to show that they are less about enforcing the state's non-settlement policy than containing migrants in the spheres of "home, church, and factory" outside of South Korean public eye. Immigration officers participate in the open secret that undocumented migrants are concentrated in such neighborhoods by policing their boundaries and targeting migrants who enter public spaces on the borders of migrant towns. Even though migrant wives and documented migrant workers are not subject to deportation, they also avoid these public spaces due to their experiences of being arrested and released based on their race. In addition, immigrant raids target politically active migrants for deportation, including leaders of migrant trade unions, denying their on-the-books right of association. As such, immigration crackdowns operate as a strategy to contain and discipline migrants and constrain the practice of rights and citizenship.
5The Making of Migrant Workers and Migrant Women
This chapter examines the process through which the ethnically and religiously cohesive Filipina migrant community in South Korea came to be treated as two distinct groups of migrant workers and migrant women. Instead of naturally emerging according to legal categories, this chapter shows that women migrants were produced as migrant wife and migrant worker subjects through encounters with South Korean religious, civic, and political actors. It shows that gendered interactions between South Korean advocates as "mediators of rights" and migrants had consequences for migrants' political participation. Whereas advocates' paternalistic interaction norms restricted migrant workers' exercise of their substantive citizenship by reinforcing the less-than-adult status of migrants vis-a-vis South Koreans, the maternalistic care advocates provided for migrant wives facilitated their development of collective claims. The making of migrant subjects does not include migrant hostesses, who are not targeted for political empowerment by South Korean civil society groups.
6Workers and Working Girls: Gendering the Worker-Citizen
This chapter asks why migrant factory workers and hostesses are offered differentiated rights despite their common status as migrant workers. Whereas Filipina factory workers are recognized by South Korean migrant advocacy groups and trade unions as the familiar figure of "woman worker," club hostesses are not recognized as workers with dignity but as the feminized and infantilized figure of "working girl." In addition, the organization of work in the factories and clubs produces honor and respect for "women workers" and stigma and paternalistic control for "working girls." This chapter argues that both labor process and civil society mobilization lead to differentiated rights in practice for these groups; while migrant factory workers experience an expansion of social and labor rights without attention to their gender-specific needs, migrant hostesses can access only limited protective measures for trafficking victims, which render the women invisible as workers.
7Between Women Victims and Mother-Citizens
This chapter explores the divergent paths to rights and dignity in the case of women in feminized sectors of migration-cross-border marriage and hostess work. Migrant wives used their moral status as mothers as a basis to claim citizenship and belonging in South Korea, but migrant hostesses only had limited access to the discourse of gendered victimhood, which prevented their inclusion as either migrant workers or migrant women. This chapter examines how migrants make decisions regarding the practice of rights in relation to the gendered pursuit of moral respect and recognition.
8 (coda): Migrant Rights and Politics of Solidarity
The coda then takes up the question of why decentering citizenship in the larger pursuit of dignity and security matters for discussions of migrant rights and justice. As the promise of equal rights and full membership in a polity is swiftly eroding in the face of increasing global inequalities, this decentering illuminates contestation at the margins of citizenship. This contestation shifts and remakes the borders of citizenship, re-imagining new possibilities for solidarity.
"Decentering Citizenship could be an ideal textbook for courses on international migration and gender at the graduate and undergraduate level" -- Pyong Gap Min * <i>Gender & Society</i> * "Decentering Citizenship offers a fascinating comparative portrait of three Filipina migrant groups in South Korea. The book is equally a study of domestic advocates of migrants, and of the important effect they have on migrants' well-being. Choo's groundbreaking work will enjoy a wide readership and deserves to be widely taught in undergraduate classes." -- Nancy Abelmann * University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign * "This brilliant book examines the timely topic of international migration with an innovative design of comparative research. Choo vividly demonstrates that the political membership of nationhood and the moral community of humanity are reimagined whenever we confront the question of what kinds of foreigners are 'worthy' of being included." -- Pei-Chia Lan * National Taiwan University * "With verve and sophistication, Choo captures the plurality of experiences of migrant women in South Korea-their multiple voices, triumphs and trials, and the numerous contradictions they face. Decentering Citizenship is at once a fast-paced and engrossing ethnography and an insightful, often brilliant rumination on citizenship, kinship, and human rights." -- Namhee Lee, University of California * Los Angeles * "As South Koreans wrestle with how to incorporate the growing numbers of foreign workers, marriage migrants, and biracial children, they have had to rethink automatic assumptions about citizenship, national belonging, and Korean identity. In Decentering Citizenship, Hae Yeon Choo tackles these important issues through the lens of Filipina migrants residing in South Korea. This rich ethnography is the first to provide such comparative analysis of a fast-growing immigrant population that is reshaping who South Koreans are and what South Korea is. As such, this book should be on the reading list for anyone who wants to better understand the social revolution that is sweeping South Korea today." -- Paul Y. Chang * <i>Pacific Affairs</i> *
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