HILD 12 — Weeks 8&9

How does Kwon’s exploration of “the work of waiting” impact the way that we think about immigration policy in a specific country? What kind of map of global migration patterns would be adequate to express the range of labors that people engage in to support one migrant worker?

It’s interesting to see how remittance and the “work of waiting” impacts those at home: we always see examples of how migrant workers from the Philippines send back remittances and it is helping to bolster the economy back home for them, but we don’t really see it from the perspective of those back at home.

Through Kwon’s exploration of the “work of waiting”, we see not only how difficult it is for migrant workers, but also the work put in by the people back at home. Kwon qualifies that the “work of waiting” is not something that typically can be measured through objective means — “Affective labor includes intimate (Boris and Parren ̃as 2010) and immaterial (Lazzarato 1996) labor, which at times trades in communication and information. Affective labor often aims to create a feeling of ease and well-being, as in personal and caring services (Hardt and Negri 2000).”

Thus it impacts the way we might interpret not only immigration, but also emigration legislation as well. However, it’s particularly poignant in this case for countries such as the US, South Korea, and other economically robust countries that other countries have migrant workers coming into for a better future. We can see clearly that restricting immigration and emigration directly causes the suffering of those at home — it reminds me of an example from another class of how Asian-Americans could not go back home as they wouldn’t be let back into America, thus meaning they would have to work in the United States for basically the rest of their life and not see their family for years if not decades. The line “Mom, when are you coming back?” “As soon as I make enough money,” perfectly demonstrates how families back at home also must undergo labor and toil, waiting to see their loved ones again.

A map of global migration patterns sufficient for depicting the range of labors that people undertake would be hard to draw. Not only would we need to depict the migration patterns of people to other countries, we would need to show how there are people still in their home countries, waiting for their loved ones to make enough money to return. It would also have to depict the difficulty in immigration — an example in Kwon’s piece states: “This exclusion turned most Korean Chinese toward illegal immigration brokers who charged high fees, equal to one or two years of average income — from $10,000 to $20,000. Because of the exorbitant costs, couples usually had to decide who would go and who would remain behind to take care of the children and the family’s property.” Thus, we would need to also demonstrate how immigration is restricted.

The trailer to “Coming to you, Minu” reminds us of the important role that music plays in fights for migrant justice. Why do you think this is the case? How can we connect this question to the first reading you did in this course by Goffe, who also talked about the relationship between Chinese shopkeepers in Jamaica and music?

The trailer for “Coming to you, Minu” was really something else for me: I’ve never really seen good depictions of immigrants in Korea other than one in a film where they play an extremely minor role. Minu had great Korean — I was able to understand him perfectly, and I thought to myself that I was under the same “misunderstanding” he thought he had: that he was Korean. By all intents and purposes, in my opinion, through his efforts in Korean society, he has the right to believe that — but not according to the government. As such, I think that music plays an extremely important role in fighting for migrant justice. For Minu and other migrant workers, his music not only works as a form of self-expression and helps create a sense of identity, but it also shows people like me, the average Korean, the tribulations he goes through. My first impression of the song “Payday” at the end of the trailer was admittedly rather crass: I heard the lyrics and thought that they were pretty boring. Upon thinking it over, however, I think that I find it boring only because I think that payday is something I take for granted, but it’s what they come here for — and their music really helps me understand their fight.

We can connect this back to the first readings to did by Goffe: the “Chiney shops” and the music they played in Jamaica served as gathering places for people who were oppressed and helped them form their own identity, and build their communities and form bonds. We have ultimately learned about how music helps us build a sense of community, a sense of identity, and a sense of self-expression, and it forms an essential part of culture that we use to show to the world who we are.

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