Migration and Affective Labour in Zadie Smith’s “The Embassy of Cambodia” and Haresh Sharma’s Model Citizens

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Nanthanoot Udomlamun

Abstract

This research article was a study of the interconnectedness between migration, gender and affective labour against the backdrop of neoliberal and neo-imperialist exploitation and state control in two contemporary literary texts. Originally published in The New Yorker in 2013, Zadie Smith’s short story, “The Embassy of Cambodia”, depicts the life of Fatou, a migrant domestic servant to the Derawals in their London suburban house. By taking a narrative detour through global and historical issues such as colonialism, genocide, migration, and globalization, Smith wrote about characters who practice various types of affective labour, commonly regarded as ‘women’s work’. The second primary text of the study was Haresh Sharma’s play, Model Citizens, published in 2012, which touched upon the pressing issues of multiculturalism and migrants in contemporary Singapore through a portrayal of three female characters: a minister’s wife, an Indonesia maid and a Paranakan or Strait-born Chinese woman whose son had committed suicide. Sharma’s play is a critique of “Singaporean Dream” by posing an immanent question: Who is/are the model citizen(s) for the Singaporean state? Built upon Marxist and feminist theories of affective and immaterial labour put forth by scholars such as Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri and Silvia Feredici, this article was an analysis and a discussion of how affective labour and migrant domestic workers were represented in the two texts. The researcher drew a conclusion on how Smith’s fiction and Sharma’s play potentially suggest a path to solidarity and liberation of domestic workers in the current system of global capitalism, state control, and patriarchy.

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Udomlamun, N. (2020). Migration and Affective Labour in Zadie Smith’s “The Embassy of Cambodia” and Haresh Sharma’s Model Citizens. Journal of Human Sciences, 21(3), 9-23. Retrieved from https://so03.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/JHUMANS/article/view/246091
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Research Articles

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