Vulnerability and Resistance in the Online Art of Filipino Migrant Collectives in the UK and the Netherlands: GABRIELA London and Migrante Utrecht
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This study explores how visual and textual art can be analysed for highlighting conditions of vulnerability and practices of resistance in Filipino migrant workers’ groups in the UK and the Netherlands. It tackles vulnerability and resistance as they are compounded by broad structures of globalized, gendered labour with a focus on the position of the Philippines as a post-colonial nation that produces cheapened labour to the Global North. Under these conditions, art is a potent resource for protest and solidarity-building; even more so in the context of escalating attacks on human rights defenders and activists under the Duterte administration that has coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic. The art pieces were collected from the social media pages of Migrante Utrecht and Gabriela London, focusing on those produced in 2020, and I argue that art is not a mere representation of experience but is capable of mediating and mobilizing people toward a better reality. I discuss vulnerability in relation to other concepts employed to describe life under neo-liberal structures: debility (Shildrick, 2015), disability (Puar, 2009), and precarity (Butler, 2004). I then use feminist critical discourse analysis (Lazar, 2005) to show how the pieces’ elements reinterpret flows of power that render workers vulnerable and re-signify their relation to activism, following Butler’s (2016) analysis of the radical potential of vulnerability. Social media is a productive space wherein these flows occur, and the study discusses how virtual reality translates and disseminates portrayals of vulnerability. Lastly, drawing on affect theory (Ahmed, 2014; Seigworth & Gregg, 2010) and its weaving together of political depression, anger, friendship, and solidarity, the paper traces connections among the art pieces and how vulnerability ultimately informs migrant women’s strategies of care and resistance.