Debating the Politics of Temporary Migrant Labour: a transnational exchange

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Geographical & Earth Sciences


Developed in a four-year partnership between geographers, migrant advocacy organisations and professional theatre artists, this proposed research seeks to generate substantive, transnational debate on the policies of temporary migrant labour and the politics of domestic caregiving in the United Kingdom, Canada and Philippines. Our work responds directly to the way the old paradigm of permanent immigrant settlement is giving way to temporary or circular migration, and we engage issues related directly to Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program and the current restructuring of immigration policy in the United Kingdom. We suggest the scope of our knowledge exchange (KE) activities is necessary because labour migration from the global south to global north is a transnational issue, and as such, we must reconfigure the scale at which discussions of justice, rights, care and need take place. This project represents an unusual and creative instance of knowledge exchange that disseminates conventional social science in a novel way. We are proposing to take a testimonial theatre production (entitled Nanay) to Manila to bring the experiences of Filipino caregivers into conversation with debates happening within the Philippines. Written as a knowledge vehicle, Nanay transforms traditional qualitative research transcripts into testimonial theatre; our script is based entirely on verbatim monologues taken from interviews conducted over a fifteen year period with Filipino domestic workers, their children, employers, and nanny agents. As social scientists, we turned to testimonial theatre because its embodied quality offers space in which to encourage audiences to think about the world differently, to temporarily suspend judgment, and to extend the terrain of political discussion on temporary migrant labour and the ethics of care in productive ways. The project thus offers one instance where social science has been translated in order to devise affective ways of putting research into greater public debate. Following our KE activities in the Philippines, we will conduct a series of public forums in the cities of Glasgow, London, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. These forums will be designed to bring together policy makers, migrant advocacy groups, and researchers in order for us to report on the debates that took place in the Philippines, and to facilitate dialogue on immigration policy and the precarity of migrant workers in the United Kingdom and Canada. In the Philippines, we will be working with members of the Ateno de Manila University; in Canada, we will continue our long-standing partnership with the Philippine Women Centre of British Columbia; and in the United Kingdom, these activities will be orchestrated in collaboration with the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum, and Migration Network, and London's Kalayaan centre. Our development of innovative KE pedagogy and collaborations with advocacy groups is motivated by the desire to create new ways to affect change and to produce opportunities in which we can model (and not just profess) a more egalitarian space for political debate.

Planned Impact

There are several key stakeholder and user groups that stand to benefit from our knowledge exchange activities. The central objective of this research is to bring important perspectives to on-going debates on temporary labour migration in the UK, Canada, and Philippines. Our work will have a direct impact for Filipino families of domestic workers in Canada and the UK. These families will be contacted and invited to participate in the public production of our testimonial play, in which migrant workers narrate their experiences in ways that are otherwise difficult, making a critical contribution to deepening and broadening discussion within the Philippines about the long-term impact of temporary labour migration on Filipino families. Performances of Nanay will be accompanied by public talkback sessions. In our previous productions of Nanay in Vancouver and Berlin, these talkbacks produced extraordinary conversations and exchange between user groups (employers, migrants, advocacy organisations and policy makers) who do not normally have the opportunity to dialogue on the issues. These forums will be video recorded and published online. Second, our subsequent public forums in the United Kingdom and Canada will have direct impact for policy makers, civil society partners, migrants, and researchers-who will be brought together to dialogue on issues pertaining to a new global paradigm of temporary migration. Thirdly, we believe that this project represents a significant effort to further the development and practice of innovative knowledge exchange pedagogy within the social sciences. This builds directly on the project's existing and considerable academic and non-academic impact. Responding to the intense interest across the social sciences in knowledge translation, we have devised this project to maximize public effect. In this respect, the broader academic community will benefit through our on-going publication on the project. We will submit a journal article to the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, and a working paper to the Metropolis project-an international network for public policy development and which circulates its working papers within an extensive network of government agencies, researchers and advocacy groups. Lastly, this project will have lasting effects for Caleb Johnston and Geraldine Pratt; enabling them to continue a highly productive research and writing partnership, and in doing so, strengthen the international exchange between researchers at the University of Glasgow and University of British Columbia.


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Description This grant enabled new knowledges concerning:

1. The role of documentary performance as an effective and substantive tool for transforming and disseminating social science research.
2. The role of the performing arts to bring together diverse stakeholders in order to open up a transnational dialogue on issues relating to overseas labour migration from the Philippines.
3. How the experiences of migration are being negotiated within transnational Filipino families.
4. The processes that are driving overseas labour migration from the Philippines to Canada and other regional countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Exploitation Route Our findings may be taken forward by academics who are interested in devising innovative ways of disseminating social science research and by those who are actively pursuing collaborations with artists and advocacy groups to inform public policy debates within and across nation states. Our findings may also be taken forward by researchers and migrant advocacy organisations who are working to more fully understanding the conditions and processes that are driving overseas labour migration from the Global South to the Global North.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Description This project represented a creative instance of knowledge exchange (KE) that disseminates conventional social science in a novel way. This phase of the research took a testimonial theatre production-entitled Nanay-to Manila to bring the experiences of Filipino caregivers into conversation with debates happening within the Philippines. Our work in Manila involved substantial KE activities centred around five weeks of research and exchange in Manila, which culminated in fifteen critically acclaimed performances of our testimonial play at the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Each and every performance of the play was followed by an extended public forum in which audience members came together to debate the ideas and issues raised in the production. The PETA performances of Nanay were attended by faculty and students from: Ateno de Manila University, University of Sto. Thomas, University of the Philippines, Manuel Luis Quezon University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Miriam College, and the University of the East. Performances were also attended by staff of ECPAT Philippines (a children's NGO), MAPUA Institute of Technology, the director of the Eastern University, the PETA-Metropolitan Teen Theatre League, the Quezon City Office of the Vice Mayor, as well as representatives of various non- governmental organisations: Batis Center for Women, Philippine Migrant Rights Watch, Scalabrini Migration Center, Migrant Forum in Asia, National Council of Churches, KPD, and Migrante International. The project was featured in Business World, Manila Standard Today, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Further, as part of our KE activities, we were able to bring family members of domestic workers in Canada to attend the play in Manila. Many of these individuals took flights from other areas of country to see a play in which their mother or their sister had participated in (this in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Haiyan). Following our activities in Manila, we meet with domestic workers in Vancouver whose family members who came out to see the play, in order to report back on our experiences and to share video documentation with them. Our activities were documented through interviews with audiences, the family members of domestic workers, and participating artists, as well as questionnaires with audience members, and the recording of post-performance public talkbacks. Our activities have been published in 1 monograph, 6 peer-reviewed journal articles and 2 book chapters. Our activities in the Philippines resulted in a number of international partnerships with professional theatre artists in Canada and the Philippines, cultural presenters in Manila, as well as researchers in Vancouver, Manila and Edinburgh. We have delivered invited talks at the meetings of the American Association of Geographers (Los Angeles), the Royal Geographical Society (London), Emotional Geographies (Groningen), as well as lectures and public forums at the University of the Philippines, the University of Glasgow, Canada's Queen's University, Green College at the University of British Columbia, and others. There were two substantive research activities that emerged directly from our KE activities. Firstly, in Manila, we established a research partnership with Migrante International, an international alliance of Filipino migrant advocacy organisations, which arranged the attendance of migrant workers and non-governmental organisations and their participation in the PETA post-performance public forums. In 2015, we returned to Manila to work with Migrante in a community adaptation of the play in a key migrant-sending community. This performance was attended by approximately 200 people, including senior church leaders and 2 elected members of the National Congress of the Philippines. Secondly, activities in Manila resulted in a performed script reading of Nanay at the 2015 Pivot Festival in Whitehorse, Canada. The event was organised by Hazel Venzon, a Filipino-Canadian actor who has performed in the project in Vancouver, Berlin, and Manila, in order to facilitate public discussion within and beyond the local Filipino community. Attendees included members of the Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon, Tlingit elders, and the Director of the Yukon Nominee Program, and the Executive Director of the Women's Directorate (both with the Yukon Government). The script reading at the 2015 Pivot Festival led to new research examining the politics of Canadian multiculturalism and the (sometimes fraught) relations between recent Filipino migrants and First Nations in the Canadian north. Central to this research was the creation of a new performance piece entitle Tlingipino Bingo in which audience members participate as storytellers. This work was created in with Tlingit and Filipino theatre artists and performed as part of the 2016 Whitehorse Nuit Blanche Festival. It was attended by approximately 180 people and funded by the Yukon Government as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This project has been the subject of publication and presentation which trace circuits of knowledge production generated by the ESRC-funded research.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal