In Sickness and in Wealth

In Sickness and in Wealth

Migration, Gendered Morality, and Central Java
Carol Chan
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/10/2018
Format: Hardback 0
ISBN: 978-0-253-03702-2
Bookmark and Share

Other formats available:


Villagers in Indonesia hear a steady stream of stories about the injuries, abuses, and even deaths suffered by those who migrate in search of work. So why do hundreds of thousands of Indonesian workers continue to migrate every year? Carol Chan explores this question from the perspective of the origin community and provides a fascinating look at how gender, faith, and shame shape these decisions to migrate. Villagers evaluate men's and women’s migrations differently, leading to different ideas about which kinds of human or financial flows should be encouraged and which should be discouraged or even criminalized. Despite routine and well-documented instances of exploitation of Indonesian migrant workers, some villagers still emphasize that a migrant's success or failure ultimately depends on that individual’s morality, fate, and destiny. Indonesian villagers construct strategies for avoiding migration-related risks that are closely linked to faith and belief in supernatural agency. These strategies shape the flow of migration from the country and help to ensure the continued confidence Indonesian people have in migration as an act of promise and hope.

Author Bio

Carol Chan is a postdoctoral fellow with the Interdisciplinary Program for Migration Studies (PRIEM) at Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile.


“Innovative and richly ethnographic, In Sickness and in Wealth is certain to be of interest to a wide range of readers with interest in migration, gender, and Islam in everyday life. Anthropologist Carol Chan is acutely attentive to dilemmas and challenges linked to the successes and failures of migrant laborers, and to ways that women and men are judged by different moral standards. Packed with enthralling stories of those who migrate and those who stay behind in Central Javanese villages, and contextualized within a wider political and moral economy, this book is moving, timely, and hard to put down.”
 — Nicole Constable, author of Born Out of Place: Migrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor

“A compelling account of the gendered moralities that shape domestic worker migration from Indonesia to countries across Asia and the Middle East. Chan’s ethnographic approach effectively reveals the critical importance of taking culture as a starting point for understanding migration.”
 — Johan Lindquist, editor (with Joshua Barker and Erik Harms) of Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity

“In this book, Carol Chan distills the moral core of migration and shows us how narratives of shame and blame, faith and fate, success and failure, sustain migration’s mirage in the villages of Central Java. In her richly textured ethnography, migrants, stayers, prospective migrants, return migrants, 'failed' migrants and their families, kin, friends, neighbors, and community leaders emerge in quick succession as inextricably linked, self-responsibilized participants—drawn together by the entangled threads of gendered moralities—as they partake in fashioning social worth and recuperative futures.”
 — Brenda S.A. Yeoh, editor (with Gracia Liu-Farre) of Routledge Handbook of Asian Migrations

In Sickness and in Wealth provides a superbly rich ethnographic account of the social and moral worlds of Indonesian migrant women. It takes us into three migrant communities of origin in Central Java. This study on migrant domestic work illustrates the aspirations and risks of migration for Indonesian women, the logics of their negotiation, and the moral economies that dictate their actions. Indonesian women represent the largest group of migrant domestic workers globally yet they remain vastly understudied. This book not only fills this much-needed empirical gap but it theoretically enriches our understanding of gendered migration in its nuanced and multi-layered investigation of the ways morals inform and constrain the actions of Indonesian workers. ”
 — Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, author of Servants of Globalization: Migration and Domestic Work

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents


Note on Names and Indonesian Currency

List of Abbreviations and Terms

Introduction: Faith in Migration

1. The Politics of Morality and Identity in Central Java

2. Mobilizing and Moralizing Indonesian Labor

3. Evaluating Migrant Success and Failure

4. Shame

5. Faith

6. Contesting the Terms of Belonging

Conclusion: Gendered Moral Economies of Migration