Paper Dolls and The Global Heart Transplant: A Few Reflections on Martin Manalansan’s “Travels of Disaffection: Labor, Affect, and Migration”

Manalansan injected his lecture for the Unit for Criticism with the tone of an intervention into the increasingly heteronormative perspective of recent scholarly work published on gender and migration. Specifically, he questioned the “chain of care” paradigm, which he defines as

A linear concatenation of bodies and feelings propelled by the migration of Third World women to the First World. Third World women are torn away from their biological families and forced to leave their children in the care of poorer women in the homeland, to take care of the progeny of modern working mothers of the first world.

In their 2003 book Global Woman, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild argue that this chain of care results in a “global heart transplant,” where the domestic labor of these third world women is uprooted from their native land and relocated in the first world where their employment as care workers takes on the function of surrogate or supplementary mothers, wives, daughters and other affective, pseudo-familial roles.

Manalansan placed this unquestioned equation of care work with the affective assumptions of femininity under a queer critique, speculating, “What if we include such queer creatures as gay men, single and married women with no “maternal instinct,” and transgendered persons into the mix? How can we queer this particular migratory diaspora without dismissing the struggles of some of its constituents?”

(Full article available at Kritik)

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