Born Out of Place

Migrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor


Nicole Constable

ISBN : 978-988-8208-54-8

Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology

May 2014

280 pages, 6″ x 9″, 2 b&w illus.; 2 tables

For sale in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand only

  • HK$210.00

Hong Kong is a meeting place for migrant domestic workers, traders, refugees, asylum seekers, tourists, businessmen, and local residents. In Born Out of Place, Nicole Constable looks at the experiences of Indonesian and Filipina women in this Asian world city. Giving voice to the stories of these migrant mothers, their South Asian, African, Chinese, and Western expatriate partners, and their Hong Kong–born babies, Constable raises a serious question: Do we regard migrants as people, or just as temporary workers? This accessible ethnography provides insight into global problems of mobility, family, and citizenship and points to the consequences, creative responses, melodramas, and tragedies of labor and migration policies.

Nicole Constable is Director of Asian Studies and Professor of Anthropology in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Research Professor in the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and “Mail Order” Marriages and Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Migrant Workers.

“Every Sunday in Hong Kong, tens of thousands of young women from the Philippines and Indonesia gather in public places to picnic, chat, enjoy a free day, and dream of a better future. In her moving and gripping study of these migrant workers, Nicole Constable recounts their lives, giving special attention to their reproductive experience. Born Out of Place tells poignant stories of maternity and infancy, of abortion and adoption, of hardship and abandonment— thus offering a compelling ethnography of the human cost of labor migration.” —Didier Fassin, Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study

“This book represents an impressive and innovative research effort. The subject matter is timely, and the biographical detail gives a pathos and immediacy to Constable’s narrative, making it possible for us to see the fault lines within the temporary foreign worker regimes found in Hong Kong and throughout the world.” —Rubie Watson, author of Inequality among Brothers: Class and Kinship in South China

“This book is so well written and accessible. Constable is a superb ethnographer: she has truly captured the worlds of her informants in a way that very few ethnographers can.” —Gordon Mathews, Professor of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

“An expert on gendered migration, Constable deftly shines light on the little-explored topic of women migrants who have babies. Passionately and beautifully written, this book is a must-read for all those interested in the inequities of the global economy, the disposability of low-wage labor, and the panic around women’s bodies, sex, and citizenship.” —Denise Brennan, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Georgetown University

“Where Constable succeeds is in her goal of humanising these women. Although she is critical of many legal policies, she objectively reports the bad along with the good, and occasionally a surprisingly funny mixture of both.” —South China Morning Post, 1 June 2014.