“Like a Family, but Not Quite: Emotional Labor and Cinematic Politics of Intimacy ”
ProfessorMichelle T. Y. Huang
Professor of Department of Geography, National Taiwan University
This essay explores the production and possibilities of intimacy in the context of global labor migration, considering the complex forms of borders mediated and disseminated in cinematic constructions and the paradox of being like family, but not quite. By closely analyzing three filmic representations (Hospital 8 East Wing, Nyonya's Taste of Life, and We Don't Have a Future Together) depicting how female foreign laborers are treated in Taiwan, this essay looks at the tensions between a congenial affirmation of migrant workers and the constrictive governance of migrant labor for the state’s regulatory purposes. My assessment of cinematic representations takes place within a critical analysis of the constitutive logic of domestic/healthcare work, namely the paradox of being “like family, but not quite.” In spite of the fact that these filmmakers attempt to portray migrant laborers as “one of the family,” such benign efforts also represent invisible migrant workers’ emotional as well as physical labor to reinforce the logic of governance that instrumentalizes their lives.