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Exporting subservience: Sri Lankan women's migration for domestic work in Jordan

Frantz, Elizabeth (2011) Exporting subservience: Sri Lankan women's migration for domestic work in Jordan. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is an anthropological study of Sri Lankan 'guest' workers in the Middle East, focusing on the experiences of women who migrate to Jordan for employment in domestic service. More than 100,000 women depart Sri Lanka for such work each year, giving Sri Lanka one of the highest per capita rates of female migration in the world. A large body of literature exists concerning the growth of Asian migration to Arab countries, yet relatively little has been written about migrants' experiences in host countries. Based on dual-sited research conducted over the course of 24 months, the thesis provides an ethnographic contribution both at the point of origin and re-entry (i.e. Sri Lanka) and at the destination point (i.e. Jordan). It draws on research in a village in western Sri Lanka to examine the factors compelling women to migrate for these jobs and how they evaluate the consequences of doing so for themselves and their families. The second part of the thesis addresses migrants' experiences and working conditions during their sojourns. The analysis aims to move beyond typically one-sided accounts of domestic work by considering the perspectives of both workers and employers and probing the complex relations between them. In doing so, it considers the kafala (sponsorship) system by which guest workers are effectively bound to their employers for the terms of their service. According to its terms, migrants are dependent on local sponsors for their residence and work permits. Workers cannot change employers without the sponsor's written consent, and sponsors have the power to send workers back to their own countries at any time. The research focuses on the example of Sri Lankan domestic workers to illuminate workers' experiences of the kafala system and analyse the links between migration policies, guest worker programmes and unfree labour in the global economy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Elizabeth Frantz
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Parry, Jonathan and Mundy, Martha

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