Contextualising intersectionality: A qualitative study of East Asian female migrant workers in the UK

Seonyoung Hwang, Alexandra Beauregard

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Previous intersectional research on ethnic minority women has largely focused on inequalities and disadvantages associated with the intersection between their minority gender and ethnic identities. In this study, we challenge the static and dichotomous assumption of the existing intersectionality framework (e.g. privilege versus disadvantage) and adopt Holvino’s intersectional perspective of simultaneity as a theoretical lens through which to demonstrate the importance of understanding intersectionality within various levels of contexts, or contextualising social differences. Interviews with 43 female migrant workers from China, Japan and Korea living in the UK revealed that these women perceived disadvantage in terms of gender/ethnic stereotyping and discriminatory practices at work. At the same time, however, their accounts provided evidence of contextualised privilege, namely ‘relative privilege’ (privilege in comparison to multiple reference groups), ‘assigned privilege’ (privilege assigned by their employers and the host society), and ‘ambiguous privilege’ (privilege as a double-edged sword). Based on these observations, we suggest that the location of East Asian women is not fixed within the interlocking systems of oppression in the host country; rather, this location is dynamic and fluid within interpersonal, organisational and societal contexts in the home and host countries, moving back and forth between disadvantage and (limited) privilege.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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