Andy Chang

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Department:
Sociology
Term:
AY 18-19

At Indopanoptic’s training center in Jakarta, peasant daughters undergo military discipline. Banned from leaving the complex until overseas departure, they withstand verbal abuse for disobeying commands. Managers confiscate inmates’ cell phones, subjecting them to a regiment of language immersion, mental training, and housekeeping chores lasting 12 hours a day, for over three months. At Indofree, a firm nestled in Ponorogo’s agrarian heartland, trainees chitchat, take selfies, and browse social media while instructors coax them to pay attention. After seven training hours each day, women slip on hijab and hop on scooters rushing to reunite with loved ones at home. Indopanoptic and Indofree are urban and rural employment agencies specializing in the global maid trade through divergent managerial strategies. As part of a thriving commercial migration industry, brokerage firms have recruited, trained, and matched millions of rural women with foreign employers since the inauguration of Indonesia's labor-export program. Political reforms ushered in by Suharto’s downfall in 1998 have further catapulted Indonesia into Southeast Asia’s second largest migrant-sending country, with an increasingly sophisticated bureaucracy managing labor outflows. Notably, the state has enhanced industry oversight by tightening training procedures for migrant domestics, setting maximum ceilings on debt bondage, and negotiating wage and work conditions with host states on their behalf. My project traces the effects of this governmental rationalization on migration management through a comparative ethnography of urban and rural employment agencies that are remote from, and embedded in, migrant source communities, respectively.