Accepted Paper:

The gift of care: on Filipina domestic workers and transnational cycles of care  


Claudia Liebelt (FU Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from current debates on the ethics of care and ethnographic research, my paper conceptualises the intergenerational cycles of care constituted by Filipina migrant domestic workers and their families as a form of gifting in the global economy.

Paper long abstract:

Feminist scholars have recently renewed their calls for a caring society and a new ethics of care, proposing a re-evaluation of typically underpaid and socially devalued care work. Care and domestic work have been analysed as deeply emotional, affective and corporeal forms of labour, which create value that is at the core of what it means to be human. As such, they transcend the logic of the market, draw from and create ethical principles, holding the potential for crafting alternative modes of conviviality. On the other hand, critical scholars have analysed an increased commodification of intimacy and care, and numerous studies on migrant domestic workers seem to document this process.

Relating to these debates on the background of my own research on Filipina migrant domestic workers, my paper contributes to an ethnographic analysis of the practices of care and the everyday politics by those who engage in it. Being subject to precarious living conditions abroad, Filipina domestic workers build solidarity networks and strategies that help them to organise their everyday lives in the diaspora and create wider principles of mutual care and support. Moreover, they are part of intergenerational projects of transnational care and migration, constituted by social bondings and obligations. In my paper, I wonder what we can make of Filipina carers' claims that they love the people they take care of and regard their work as part of a wider ethical project. Finally, my paper asks whether the gifting of care within the contemporary global economy constitutes a cosmopolitan ethics in its own right.

Panel W036
Vernacular cosmopolitanisms in an age of anxiety