Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of History and Politics and Centre for Asia Pacific Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS)


Nationality is too often introduced and then forgotten in literature on foreign domestic workers (FDWs). The concept of nationality is complex, both at a theoretical and an empirical level, particularly as it is manifested in the lived experience of these workers. This thesis constitutes an analysis driven by questions of nationality, national identity and citizenship. In short, nationality is elevated to the position of critical analytical variable. Drawing on field research, nationality is systematically explored through the analysis of a series of relationships which underwrite the lived experiences of Indonesian FDWs in Taiwan. These relationships, which begin in Indonesia and continue in Taiwan, involve states, citizens, NGOs and non-citizens and revolve around issues of citizenship and national identity. The case of Taiwan is particularly interesting due to the relatively recent emergence of democracy and expansion of civil society after an extended period of authoritarianism. Taiwan’s pursuit of independence from China not only shapes its national identity but also forms the backdrop for debates about foreign labour and migrant workers’ rights. Despite the current democratic environment, the legacy of a military-authoritarian regime remains in the weak labour laws and ineffective enforcement mechanisms. For Indonesian FDWs, this is further complicated by Taiwanese politico-cultural traditions whereby the familial work environment is largely unregulated. While the recent multiplication of NGOs has marginally increased state and employer accountability, the structural powerlessness of Indonesian FDWs to pursue their rights has worked against significant protection for these workers. Essentially, Indonesian FDW/carers in Taiwan, by virtue of their nationality, citizenship and gender, labour within a “wild zone of power” where the rule of law often ignores them