Maid to Queer

Asian Labor Migration and Female Same-Sex Desires


Francisca Yuenki Lai

ISBN : 978-988-8528-33-2

Cultural Studies, Gender Studies Queer Asia (酷兒亞洲)

November 2020

148 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$360.00

Maid to Queer is the first book about Asian female migrant workers who develop same-sex relationships in a host city. Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews with Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong, the book explores the meanings of same-sex relationships to these migrant women. Instead of searching for reasons to explain why they engage in a same-sex relationship, this book provides an ethnographic perspective by addressing their Sunday activities and considering how migration policies and the practices of Hong Kong people unintentionally produce alternative sexuality and desires for them. The author contrasts the migrant experiences of same-sex relationships with the Western discourse that individuals carry a strong sense of sexual identification prior to migration; same-sex desires among Indonesian domestic workers are often not realized until they leave home. Addressing the changes from maid to queer, this book documents the intersections of domestic work, labor migration, race, and religion on the sexual subject formation, specifically how Indonesian women negotiate heteronormativity and remake a space for their love, sex, and intimacy.

For those interested in lesbian studies, Asian labor migration, sexual citizenship, and queer migration, this ethnography fills an important gap in explaining how the feminization of international migration and the constraints imposed on live-in domestic workers unintentionally become productive possibilities of queerness and normativity.

Francisca Yuenki Lai is an assistant professor in the Center for General Education at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Purdue University, USA.

Maid to Queer combines insights from migration studies with those of LGBT studies, contributing to both. It examines the sexual subjectivities and shifting sexualities of these domestic workers, in relation to both migrant labor policies and the anxieties and practices of their employers in Hong Kong. Lai’s book is very enticing to read.” —Saskia Wieringa, University of Amsterdam

“This is the first book I know of exploring sexuality among domestic workers. Lai shows that sexuality is relative to both imagination and opportunity, and that it can change over time. Women may desire women, or they may not; context shapes this desire and how this desire plays out.” —Sharyn Davies, Monash University