Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level



Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies


Yajaira M. Padilla

Committee Member

Mohja Kahf

Second Committee Member

Sean Teuton


border struggle, IDWs' narratives, immigrant narratives, Indonesian domestic worker, migrant worker, migratory experience


In recent years, Indonesian migrant women who seek employment as domestic workers in foreign countries have caught the Indonesian reading public’s attention with their novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction writings. Creative work by migrant domestic workers was established as a genre when Denok Kanthi Rokhmatika, a domestic worker who works in Hong Kong published her collection of short stories Negeri Elok nan Keras dimana Kami Berjuang (Beautiful and Tough Country where We Struggle) in 2002 (Insani and Raihan iii). The publication marks the birth of a new genre, which has become known as “Sastra Buruh Migran Indonesia” (Indonesian migrant worker’s literature; hereafter SBMI). This dissertation explores the portrayal of IDWs’ migratory experiences as manifested in their narratives. In this dissertation, I use the term IDWs’ narratives to refer to SBMI. I argue that IDWs’ narratives, as the creative work of IDWs, challenge the stereotypes that are associated with this community (for example, that IDWs are uneducated, stupid, gaudy, unskilled, and not good for anything besides domestic work) and also overturn the derogatory perceptions of the workers that are produced and reproduced through media outlets.

IDWs’ narratives also have the potential to offer a new and fresh lens to address IDWs’ identity and plights in their host countries. Their writings show that these women are not merely laborers who clean and tend to their employers’ needs. IDWs need to adapt to a wide variety of cultural, social, and linguistic tensions and conflicts in the host countries. They have to be not only “doers” but also “thinkers” and deal with a wide range of practical as well as emotional issues in strange and unusual surroundings. By writing their own stories, these migrant women are able to assert and navigate their subjectivities. Articulating their stories by using the first-person perspective, IDWs try to contest stereotypes and propose new definitions of domestic work and those who perform it. Finally, their writing reveals the struggles that IDWs face in asserting their rights as human beings, for in the process of migration, these women are often dehumanized.