Narrowcasting into the infinite margins: Internet sonorities of transient Indonesian domestic workers in Singapore

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Transient workers in the Chinese-dominant city-state of Singapore make up an invisibilized underclass of low-paid manual laborers traveling to the prosperous Southeast Asian territory largely from the countries of Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. Numbering some 540,100 in 2019, they make up more than 10 percent of Singapore’s total population, while mostly working and living twenty-four hours a day in the private family homes of their employers. In these residences, most workers continue their labor in separation from each other, performing housekeeping or caregiving duties in a relatively quiet and invisible way. On the internet, however, this invisibility becomes quickly unveiled through the ability of such communities— in the case of this study, Indonesian female workers—to regroup in their spare, liminal moments and stake their identities and spaces online while riding on the fast connections provided in their workplaces. On various social media platforms, different expressions of identity and alternative claims of cultural, religious, and political spaces are made. Often presented as podcasts and selfie videos, many of these articulations are aimed at an intersecting range of audiences and overlapping viewerships within different groups of transnational migrants in Singapore. Parallel to this audience, these expressions also draw upon networks in many workers’ specific villages of origin as well as expanding “sisterhood” networks of migrant and ex-migrant workers in Indonesia itself. Based on fieldwork conducted in Singapore between 2017 and 2019, this chapter focuses on sound-based expressions and considers four case studies of mediated articulations by Indonesian domestic worker communities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Sound Communities in the Asia Pacific
Subtitle of host publicationMusic, Media and Technology
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9781501360053
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

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