Debating the Politics of Temporary Migrant Labour: a transnational exchange

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Geosciences

Abstract

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.

Publications

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Caleb Johnston (Author) (2014) Performing Nanay in Manila, Philippines in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

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Johnston C (2016) Performing Precarity

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Pratt G (2017) Filipino migrant stories and trauma in the transnational field in Emotion, Space and Society

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Pratt G (2017) Filipino migrant stories and trauma in the transnational field in Emotion, Space and Society

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Pratt G (2019) Staging Testimony in Nanay in Geographical Review

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Pratt, G And Johnston, C (2014) Once More, with Feeling: Six Affecting Plays

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/K000594/1 12/11/2012 27/02/2013 £46,937
ES/K000594/2 Transfer ES/K000594/1 01/03/2013 30/04/2014 £33,652
 
Title Nanay: a testimonial play 
Description This research has involved the performance of a testimonial theatre project (written by the PI and CO-I) designed to engender public debate about Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program, and directly addresses the experiences of Filipino domestic workers who come to Canada as migrant labourers. Nanay transforms very conventional qualitative interview transcripts into testimonial theatre, which is to say, our project is based entirely on verbatim monologues taken from interviews conducted over a 15 year period with domestic workers, their children and Canadian employers. Our overall objective in Nanay has been to forge a more complex identification with both the plight of domestic workers, as well as that of middle-class families struggling to secure affordable care in Canada. This phase of the this project, funded by the ESRC, has supported 15 performances of Nanay in Manila, Philippines. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact Please see list of publications, invited talks, and related KE activities in Manila. 
URL http://www.calebjohnston.ca/nanay/
 
Description This research has: 1) significantly furthered the development and practice of innovative knowledge exchange in the social sciences; 2) mobilised testimonial theatre as an means through which to stimulate and engender a genuinely transnational public debate on the politics of temporary labour migration and global care ethics; and 3) facilitated the sharing of information and experience between migrants, advocacy organisations and academics in Canada, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. This research has used testimonial theatre to reconfigure the scale at which deliberations of justice, care and need take place. We have looked to theatre to translate and disseminate social science research in order to prompt and push audiences to think about the world differently and to extend the terrain of political discussion in productive ways.
Exploitation Route The performances of our testimonial play have contributed to an important transnational public sphere in which multiple 'user' communities have come together to witness, explore and debate the politics and ethics of temporary labour migration. Performances of Nanay in Manila were attended by faculty and students from Ateno de Manila, University of Sto. Thomas, University of the Philippines, Manuel Luis Quezon University, Polytechnic University, Miriam College, and the University of the East. Performances were also attended by the staff of ECPAT Philippines (a children's NGO), MAPUA Instititue 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 NGOs: Batis Center for Women, Philippine Migrant Rights Watch, Scalabrini Migration Center, Migrant Forum in Asia, National Council of Churches, KPD, and Migrante International. Further, performances and post-performance talkbacks were attended by former and current migrant workers, and the family members of domestic workers in Canada. This research has several future impacts to report. Firstly, this work has stimulated significant conversations on the effects of labour migration and family separation between migrant domestic workers in Canada and their family members in the Philippines. Secondly, as noted previously, we have shared our testimonial script with Migrante International, who are using it to develop script readings in migrant-sending communities in Manila. We will be assessing their work to explore how migrants often do not fully communicate their challenges to their relatives in the Philippines, and working with the script at a community-level allows us to communicate experiences under Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program in an intimate way to prospective migrants. Thirdly, we will document a second reading of the play organised by Hazel Venzon within the Filipino community in Whitehorse, Canada. This will be conducted at Nakai Theatre, who are exploring the possibility of a full theatrical production of Nanay during their Pivot Festival in January 2016. Knowing little about the history of Filipino migration to Canada before joining the production, the experience of Nanay has led Venzon to create a series of artistic works within the Filipino community in Whitehorse (where she now lives) in which she has used theatre to create novel forms of multicultural interaction. Her work will serve to examine the growing and understudied migration of Filipinos to and multiculturalism in the Canadian North.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

 
Description Designed to maximise the public impact of social science research on Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program, our KE activities have produced significant outcomes. We carried out five weeks of research in the Philippines, which culminated in fifteen critically acclaimed and sold-out performances of our testimonial play (entitled Nanay) at the Philippine Educational Theater Association. Each and every performance of Nanay was followed by an extended and facilitated public forum in which audience members were encouraged to explore and debate the political and ethical dilemmas raised by temporary labour migration, the ethics of global care, and family separation. Performances in Manila were attended by migrant workers, the family members of domestic workers in Canada, migrant advocacy groups, university representatitves, general public, local government officials, students, and a broad spectrum of non-governmental organisations. Our research in Manila has been documented through interviews with audience members, the family members of domestic workers, participating artists, as well as through audience questionnaires and recorded post-performance talkbacks. We have disseminated this research in leading academic journals, invited talks and public forums in Canada, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Geography and the Lived Environment Small Research Grant
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2014 
End 08/2014
 
Description Artistic partnership 
Organisation Philippine Educational Theater Association
Country Philippines 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This project involved partnership with four professional Filipino actors and the Philippine Educational Theater Association in Manila (PETA).
Collaborator Contribution PETA provided a performance theatre, administrative staff, community outreach, and publicity to the our research activities.
Impact The major outcome of this collaboration was fifteen performances of our testimonial play to capacity audiences.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Collaboration/partnership 
Organisation University of British Columbia
Department Department of Geography
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project has involved a collaboration between the PI at the University of Edinburgh and Professor Geraldine Pratt at the University of British Columbia.
Collaborator Contribution Professor Geraldine Pratt has been instrumental to all aspects of this research: planning, field work, publication, conferences, etc.
Impact Please see publication list in this reporting.
Start Year 2008
 
Description Community Partnership 
Organisation Nakai Theatre
Country Canada 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Following our KE activities in Manila, we have established a partnership with Nakai Theatre (Yukon) and Hazel Venzon, a Filipino-Canadian theatre artist and actor who has performed in Nanay in Vancouver, Berlin and Manila.
Collaborator Contribution Nakai Theatre and Hazel Venzon will conduct a script reading of the play within the Filipino migrant community in Whitehorse (Canada) during the Pivot Festival, January 2015. For this, Venzon is collaborating with the Filipino Association of the Yukon, and is using the script to create novel forms of multicultural interaction and to generate public discussion on Filipino migration to the Canadian North. Further, Nikai Theatre is exploring the possibility of a full production of Nanay in their 2016-17 season.
Impact The primary outcome of this collaboration will be a script reading of our testimonial play in Whitehorse in January 2014. We will be using this as an opportunity to stimulate a discussion within the Filipino community on the politics of temporary labour migration and multiculturalism in Canada.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Partnership 
Organisation Migrante International
Country Philippines 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Following the performances of Nanay in the Philippines in November 2013, we shared our testimonial script with Migrante International, a migrant advocacy group based in Manila. We have since worked with the organisation to re-work this text to create community-based readings in migrant-sending communities in Metro Manila. The first of these performances took place in October 2014. Through this partnership, we have directed financial resources to Migrante, and have travelled to Manila twice to contribute to the training of community-based researchers, to document Migrante's performance, and support their organising of an advocacy theatre group.
Collaborator Contribution Our KE activities in Manila has involved a partnership with Migrante International, an migrant advocacy organisation who arranged the attendance of migrant workers, their family members, and non-governmental organisations and their participation in post-performance public forums in November 2013. More recently, Migrante has taken a led in re-writing and adapted our testimonial script and have organised several performances within a migrant-sending community (performed by youth of that community). Migrante has arranged rehearsal and performance space, as well as co-ordinated the participation of youth in these activities, and arranged the attendance of community members and government officials. Our collaboration with Migrante culminated in a community performance of Nanay in Metro Manila in October 2015.
Impact This collaboration has: Resulted in the attendance of migrant advocacy workers, and the family members of domestic workers during the performance of Nanay at the Philippine Educational Theater Association in November 2013. It has also resulted in Migrante re-working and organising several performances of our testimonial script in a key migrant-sending community. This was a performance in which youth performed migrant experiences within their own community in Metro Manila.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Business World 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in newspaper.

Unknown
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.bworldonline.com/weekender/content.php?id=79703
 
Description Circulating Discourses of Suffering Across National Contexts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Sparked discussion and questions.

Interest in our use of theatre as a research methodology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Circulating Suffering: Part Two 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Sparked questions and discussion.

Interest in the issue of temporary labour migration and theatre as a means of generating public debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Emotions on the Move 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Sparked discussion and questions.

Requests for more information on using theatre as a social science research methodology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Manila Standard Today 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a news article.

Unknown
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://manilastandardtoday.com/mobile/newsinfo/?id=134021
 
Description Performance of Nanay 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Fifteen performances of our testimonial theatre play, entitled Nanay, were delivered at the Philippine Education Theater Association in Manila, Philippines.

Notable impacts arising from our performances of Nanay included many audience members reporting (in interviews and questionnaires) being deeply emotional moved by the issues and research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.calebjohnston.ca/nanay/
 
Description Philippine Daily Inquirer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact An interview conducted for the Inquirer, Manila's largest daily newspaper.

Unknown
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.inquirer.net/101061/nanay-a-site-specific-performance-installation
 
Description Post-Performance Public Forums 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Each and every performance of our testimonial play in Manila was followed by an extended public forum in which audience members came together to debate the ideas and issues raised in the production. Post-performances talkbacks were attended by the general public, and faculty members, students and cultural workers from the following institutions: Ateneo de Manila University, University of Sto. Tomas, University of the Philippines, Manuel Luis Quezon University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, MAPUA Institute of Technology, Mirriam College, the University of the East, Teatro Balagtas Community Theater, the Director of Culture and Arts from the Far Eastern University, and the PETA-Metropolitan Teen Theater League. Performances were also attended by the representatives of the following NGOs, government offices, and advocacy organisations: Migrante International, Philippine Commission on Women, ECPAT Philippines, Batis Center for Women, Migrant Rights Watch, Migrant Forum in Asia, Quezon City Office of the Vice Mayor, Scalabrini Migration Centre, National Council of Churches, and the families of domestic workers in Canada.

Notable impacts arising from post-performances talkbacks included: family members of domestic workers in the Philippines reporting a distinct change in their understanding of their family members experiences of migrating as temporary domestic workers to Canada; reporting in Canada of from domestic workers relating that, after seeing the play, their family members are asking them more questions about their experiences in Canada; the incredible sharing of experiences and information between many audience members within post-performance talkbacks; and several new collaborations and opportunities that emerged out of our time in Manila.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Public forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a public forum and reporting back in Vancouver on our research activities in the Philippines. The event was organised in partnership with the Liu Institute for Global Studies at the University of British Columbia, and is part of the UBC Philippine Studies Series.

Graduate students asking about more information on the project and Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Reporting back 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact This was a focus group organised to report back on our research activities in the Philippines. The event was organised with Filipino domestic workers in Vancouver-- the mothers of the children and family members who attend the performance of Nanay in Manila.

Domestic workers described how conversations with their family members in the Philippines have changed since seeing the play and there was much discussion about how best to communicate their experiences in Canada.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Staging Research as Performance 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This was talk given for senior artists from the Philippine Education Theater Association in Manila. It was attended by visual artists, community educators, playwrights, writers and outreach co-ordinators.

Our talk stimulated a interest in using social science research to make theatre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Testimony, Theatre, and Ethics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact An invited talk for undergraduate students at Queen's University (Canada).

Students asking many questions about documentary theatre as a social science method.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Theatre, Politics, and Transnational Affects 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Sparked discussion and questions.

Many questions on the issue of Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program, and on using theatre as a research method and for public engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_329872_en.pdf
 
Description Translating Research into Theatre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Sparked discussion and questions.

Spirited discussion among Filipino graduate students on the politics and dilemmas of temporary labour migration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Transnational Affects in the Space of Theatre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Sparked discussion and questions.

Interest in thinking about the way in which discourses of suffering travel, in the ethics of temporary labour migration, and in theatre as a social science method.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Working with Documentary Theatre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This was a seminar organized and conducted with undergraduate, graduate and faculty members at the Department of Speech and Communication, and the Department of Geography, University of the Philippines.

Many of those attending our talk, came to see the performance of our testimonial play and participated in post-performance public forums. Graduate students also provided a valuable written feedback on the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Working with Testimony 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a lecture and workshop offered to post-graduate students and faculty members at the University of Glasgow.

Interest in theatre as a social science method and the politics opened up by Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013