Moving Labor: Transnational Migrant Workers and Affective Literacies of Care
Keywords:literacy, affect, labor migration, brain drain, skills training, care work
In this article, I examine the role of affect management in the transnational migration of Filipino care workers. Drawing on qualitative research in the Philippines, I claim that in government-mandated skills training, opportunities for Filipino migrants to critically engage in print and English literacies were often limited to standardized and rote practices to enhance transferability. In response, these migrant workers turned to affective literacies to engage in the kind of critical thinking and knowledge transformation necessary to challenge their labor conditions or simply survive the daily traumas of migrant life. While policies for skills-based labor migration categorize workers and their migration trajectories through a high-skills/low-skills divide, I suggest that affect management is the “high-skilled” work in such contexts where the mobility and flexibility of the global economy are experienced as precarity and insecurity. This reversal of high-low skill categories prompts a re-imagining of the transnational movement of labor—one where worker-citizens and their literacies move through a continuous series of affective attachments to and detachments from the nation-state.
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