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The Migrant’s Body in Asia: Ethnicity and Race, Gender and Sexuality

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Women migrant labor -- Sri Lanka -- Social conditions, Women migrant labor -- Sri Lanka -- Families, Women migrant labor -- Sri Lanka -- Economic conditions, omen household employees -- Sri Lanka -- Ethnology


Physical and symbolic aspects of bodies limit the migration trajectories of female domestic workers from a Buddhist community in coastal Sri Lanka. Government regulations and family decisions regarding women’s overseas labour draw upon and in turn influence discourses about gender, sexuality, age, health, and class. This ethnographic analysis illustrates that local norms task women with nurturing the brains of babies, preserving the chastity of teenage daughters, caring for frail elders, and preventing their working-class husbands from overindulging in liquor or having sex with other women. Successful social reproduction depends on the proper conjunctions of bodies in the extended family. Corporeal and symbolic dangers imagined to arise from women’s absence fuel a national-level moral panic about female migration.


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Chapter 6. This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in The Migrant’s Body in Asia: Ethnicity and Race, Gender and Sexuality. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in The Migrant’s Body in Asia: Ethnicity and Race, Gender and Sexuality, edited by Michiel Baas. 135-160. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

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