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Beyond the ‘all seeing eye’: Filipino migrant domestic workers’ contestation of care and control in Hong Kong

Johnson, Mark; Lee, Maggy; McCahill, Mike; Mesina, Lenlen


Mark Johnson

Maggy Lee

Lenlen Mesina


This paper draws on ethnographic data about Filipino migrant domestic workers’ perceptions of and responses to the use of surveillance cameras in the home to intervene in recent debates about surveillance, care and social control. On the one hand, our participants disclose what following Gary Marx (1981) we refer to as the gendered ironies of care and control. Digital surveillance practices in the home not only produce tactics for evading control but also reduce the capacity of migrant workers to deliver the best possible care that is ostensibly the basis for the deployment of new forms of watching. On the other hand, the responses we document here speak to critiques of the Foucauldian vision of surveillance derived from the panopticon that are ‘abstract, disembodied and distrustful’. In contrast to the Benthamite reading of God’s all seeing eye, Filipino migrant workers invoke a relational vision which speaks to connectedness, trust and the possibility of mutual concern. While the use of covert surveillance cameras especially was perceived as undermining the trust necessary for care relationships, some respondents used the devices to provoke face to face encounters deemed necessary to re-establish relations of trust.


Johnson, M., Lee, M., McCahill, M., & Mesina, L. (2019). Beyond the ‘all seeing eye’: Filipino migrant domestic workers’ contestation of care and control in Hong Kong. Ethnos,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 3, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 28, 2019
Publication Date Mar 28, 2019
Deposit Date Nov 21, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 29, 2020
Print ISSN 0014-1844
Electronic ISSN 1469-588X
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Care and Control, Surveillance, Migration, Gender, Hong Kong, Philippines
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