In Singapore, many middle-class families employ foreign domestic workers (FDWs) to take on care and domestic work. In this setup, female FDWs need to be “a part of the family” and “feel at home” to better perform and render intimate labor, but they are structurally displaced and prevented from being fully integrated in both their employer’s homes and in the host country. Ilo Ilo (2013), a debut film by a Singaporean director Anthony Chen, has poignantly portrayed this paradoxical relationship by showing a young boy’s growing affection to his Filipina maid, and how this brief yet enduring bond demonstrates migration’s effects on both the foreign helpers and the middle-class families employing them. This Singaporean family melodrama depicts the affective nature of migration by demonstrating how FDWs are positioned as an intimate yet excluded figure inside the employer’s homes. The contradiction between intimacy and social exclusion seen in the film also simultaneously describes and prescribes the FDW’s place in the host country. The film illustrates the paradox of intimacy and exclusion in the host–guest worker relationship of employers and their maids within the private domains of household and the public discourse on FDWs’ claims in Singapore.
Feminist Media Studies 19 (7)
Received 21 Oct 2017, Accepted 15 Aug 2018, Published online: 06 Sep 2018
KEYWORDS: Foreign domestic workers, domestic work, intimate labor, social exclusion, hospitality