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NWSA Journal 15.2 (2003) 195-199

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Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration, and Domestic Work by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001, 309 pp., $55.00 hardcover, $18.95 paper.
The Kitchen Spoon's Handle: Transnationalism and Sri Lanka's Migrant Housemaids by Michele Ruth Gamburd. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000, 275 pp., $39.95 hardcover, $16.95 paper.

Aihwa Ong notes that "[a]nthropology has a specific contribution to make to our understanding of transnationality, but perhaps we have been held back by the �macro' scope of the phenomenon and by a false sense of what constitutes the global and the local" (1999, 22). Both authors of the books reviewed apply analysis that allow the readers to see the web of significance in women's everyday life and the meanings they are able personally make relevant when faced with the social facts of migration.

Parreñas's and Gamburd's impressive books demonstrate how Women's Studies can contribute significantly to current imaginations of multiple modernities in anthropological research--by looking at the local nexus of migration, common trends in women's lived experiences of transnationalism emerge. Servants of Globalization and The Kitchen Spoon's [End Page 195] Handle focus mainly on the lives of Asian women domestic workers and their experiences of migrations abroad. Both works discuss the global and social forces that influenced women's decisions for migration, the social structures that define and confine, the process and benefits of migration, and women's strategies employed to resist or rationalize restrictions on their identities and freedom of movement.

Servants of Globalization is a comparative analysis of Filipina migration to Rome and Los Angeles, two cities with "the largest Filipino migrants" (2). Parreñas's data consists of open-ended interviews through "chain and snowball referrals," short surveys of nonrandom samples, and participant observation (16). Her research asks "why do migrant Filipina domestic workers in cities with different �contexts of reception' encounter similar dislocations" and how Filipina in Rome and Los Angeles act as active agents in their resistance of these dislocations (3).

Parreñas's book is innovative in its ability to analyze simultaneously the local and the global. By comparing Rome and Los Angeles as contexts of receptions, she is able to discuss the common global forces that push for migration out of the Philippines. By contrasting the local contexts of reception, Parreñas is also able to explain the migrant workers' pull toward home.

However, more detailed discussions of Parreñas's own fieldwork experiences could add to the book's research question. The readers are left to wonder whether domestic workers in Los Angeles perceive differences in occupation and income between the author and themselves as another source of their dislocations.

The Kitchen Spoon's Handle discusses migration of Sri Lankan domestic workers to the Middle East. Interestingly, Gamburd works in the same village as her anthropologist mother. This unique opportunity and the frank accounts of her fieldwork context add to the book's historical depth concerning village social relationships.

Through the help of her research assistants, Gamburd's data consists of the village women's representation of their experiences abroad. Her research discovers what women in the village of Naeaegama find symbolically meaningful given their experience of migration and the consequent return home. By adding men's perspectives, Gamburd is able to discuss contesting and mutual gender reconstruction in Naeaegama. Migrant women who became the families' breadwinners challenge traditional gender ideals of masculinity. In addressing women's changing economic roles, ideas about masculinity are also redefined.

Working with Chinese migrants, Ong states: "the crisis in American social sciences concerns how to represent (other) modernities with linear models of modernization, development, and the spread of democracy [which] are no longer adequate to capture the range of political formations and self-positioning in different parts of the world" (1999, 31). By [End Page 196] looking at the globalization from the social actors' perspectives, common themes emerge in Parre&ntilde...


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