The Migrant’s Body in Asia: Ethnicity and Race, Gender and Sexuality
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.
Published as: Gamburd, Michele R. 2020. “Proper Conjunctions of Bodies: Chastity, Age, and Kin-work in Sri Lankan Migrants’ Families.” In The Migrant’s Body in Asia: Ethnicity and Race, Gender and Sexuality, edited by Michiel Baas. 135-160. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.