Follow the Maid

Domestic Worker Migration in and from Indonesia

Olivia Killias

246 pp., illustrated
Gendering Asia # 13
Available from NIAS Press worldwide




Hardback - 2018, Recently Published
ISBN 978-87-7694-226-7, £65.00
Paperback - 2018, Recently Published
ISBN 978-87-7694-227-4, £25.00


• First ethnographic monograph to explore domestic worker migration in and from Indonesia, one of the main labour-sending countries in the world. • Follows the process of Indonesian women being recruited, trained, certified, sent abroad as domestic workers and returned home.
• Provides key insights into the gendered control of mobility and labour in times of neoliberal globalization and makes an important contribution to decentring critical migration scholarship.

This fascinating study unveils the workings of the Indonesian migration regime, one that sends hundreds of thousands of women abroad as domestic workers each year. Drawing on extended ethnographic research since 2007, the book literally follows migrant women from a matrilocal village in upland Central Java, women who actively place themselves in a position to enter the migration pipeline, knowing that their lives abroad will be hard and even dangerous, and that staying in the village is an option.     From recruitment by local brokers to the ‘training’ received in secluded camps in Jakarta, employment in gated middle-class homes within Indonesia and in Malaysia and back home again, Olivia Killias tracks the moral, social, economic and legal processes by which women are turned into ‘maids’. The author’s analysis uncovers the colonial genealogies of contemporary domestic worker migration and demonstrates that, ironically, the legalization of the migration industry does not automatically improve the situation of the women in its care. Rather, Killias unmasks the gendered moralizing discourses on ‘illegal’ migration and ‘trafficking’ as legitimizing indentured labour and constraining migrant mobility. By exploring the workings of the Indonesian state’s overseas legal labour migration regime for migrants, she brings the reader directly into the nerve-racking lives of migrant village women, and reveals the richness and ambiguity of their experiences, going beyond stereotypical representations of them as ‘victims of trafficking’.

Critical acclaim:

"Beautifully researched and ethographically rich, this book literally 'follows' Indonesian women from village, to training camp, to Malaysia, and back again. Acutely attentive to time and place, Killias weaves together compelling narratives and provides important insights into the milti-stranded processes that create contemporary indentured workers."
- Nicole Constable, University of Pittsburgh

"Indonesian women who work abroad as maids are subject to a patronizing, invasive, and rather opaque apparatus of control, purportedly for their protections. [...] Killias offers unique insights on how thes apparatus works, and the critical reflections of women who are subject to its force. Well written, and very informative."
- Tania Murray Li, University of Toronto

"In the volumious literature on transnational female migrant domestic workers Follow the Maid stands out in its ethnographic attention to the process whereby villagers are transformed into migrants. This critical corrective  will be of great interest to scholars of gender and migrations, in Asia and beyond." - Johan Lindquist, University of Stockholm

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