The Discourse of Powerlessness and Repression: Life stories of domestic migrant workers in Hong Kong, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Discourse of Powerlessness and Repression

Life stories of domestic migrant workers in Hong Kong, 1st Edition

By Hans J. Ladegaard


230 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Drawing on a large corpus of narratives recorded at a church shelter for abused domestic helpers in Hong Kong, this monograph explores how the women discursively construct themselves in sharing sessions with other helpers. They see themselves as ‘helpers’ who have come to Hong Kong to help their families, to help the people in the city, and to serve God. A wide variety of competing identities are constructed in the narratives: submissive helper, sacrificial mother, daughter and wife, and powerless traumatised victim, but also resourceful indignant migrant women who, through sharing and peer support, become empowered to fight against abusive employers. This book provides a detailed discourse analysis of the women’s narratives, but it also explores larger issues such as global migration, exploitation, language and power, abuse and the psychology of evil, intergroup communication, and peer support and empowerment.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Methodology and Theoretical Frameworks

3. Poverty and Dependence: Discourses of Inferiority and Social Deprivation

4. Global Servants and Servants of God: Sacrificial Mothers, Daughters and Wives

5. The Destructiveness of Distance: Unfaithful Husbands and Absent Mothers

6. Trauma Narratives: The Destruction of Self

7. ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Discourses of Resistance, Agency and Peer Support

8. Demonising the Cultural Other: Depersonalisation and Dehumanisation of Foreign Domestic Helpers

9. Research and Social Activism: Working On, For and With Domestic Migrant Workers

10. Conclusion

About the Author

Hans J. Ladegaard is Professor and Head of the Department of English, at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / Sociolinguistics
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration