Fifteen instructive essays on the causes and effects of female workers’ migration from poor nations to affluent ones.
In their introduction, social commentator Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed, 2001, etc.) and sociologist Hochschild (The Time Bind, 1997) voice the hope that this compilation, to which each has contributed an article, will make visible the female underside of globalization. Third World women leave home by the millions to provide traditionally female services in other countries. There are four major migrational flows: from southeast Asia to the Middle and Far East, from Africa to Europe, from East to West in Europe, and from South to North in the Americas. Most of the essays here are by professors of sociology or anthropology at American universities; the text is rife with such phrases as “intergenerational power dynamics,” “gender roles,” and “spatial dispersal of economic activities.” An exception is novelist Susan Cheever’s piece, which examines on her personal experiences as an employer of nannies. The weightier essays are based on fieldwork, including extensive interviews with migrant domestic workers, and they tackle such issues as the pressures global capitalism puts on women and their families, the ways in which the migration of married women has altered relationships with the husbands and children left behind, and the unbalanced relationships that develop between these workers and their female employers. The most disturbing piece looks at the sex trade in Thailand, where young girls are sold into prostitution and exported to brothels in Japan, Europe, and America. Somewhat out of place here, one essay explores the special case of Vietnam, where a surplus of women has resulted in an exodus of highly educated women who enter arranged marriages with low-wage-earning Vietnamese men living overseas. An annotated list of activist organizations is appended.
For women’s study courses, this look at a heretofore largely unexplored phenomenon is sure to provide controversial material.