Beyond the ‘all seeing eye’: Filipino migrant domestic workers’ contestation of care and control in Hong Kong

Johnson, Mark; Lee, Maggy; McCahill, Mike and Mesina, Ma Rosalyn. 2020. Beyond the ‘all seeing eye’: Filipino migrant domestic workers’ contestation of care and control in Hong Kong. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, 85(2), pp. 276-292. ISSN 0014-1844 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper draws on ethnographic data about Filipino migrant domestic workers’ perceptions of and responses to the use of surveillance cameras in the home to intervene in recent debates about surveillance, care and social control. On the one hand, our participants disclose what following Gary Marx (1981) we refer to as the gendered ironies of care and control. Digital surveillance practices in the home not only produce tactics for evading control but also reduce the capacity of migrant workers to deliver the best possible care that is ostensibly the basis for the deployment of new forms of watching. On the other hand, the responses we document here speak to critiques of the Foucauldian vision of surveillance derived from the panopticon that are ‘abstract, disembodied and distrustful’. In contrast to the Benthamite reading of God’s all seeing eye, Filipino migrant workers invoke a relational vision which speaks to connectedness, trust and the possibility of mutual concern. While the use of covert surveillance cameras especially was perceived as undermining the trust necessary for care relationships, some respondents used the devices to provoke face to face encounters deemed necessary to re-establish relations of trust.

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Care and control, surveillance, migration, gender, Hong Kong, Philippines

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1 October 2018Accepted
28 March 2019Published Online
February 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

14 Sep 2018 11:24

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 16:27

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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