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Foreign Bodies at Work: Good, Docile and Other-ed

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The lived, and oftentimes silenced, experiences of "foreign workers" articulate the negotiation of power relations between "citizen" and "foreigner", and "Us" and "Them". These are translated into discursive practices that, in effect, legitimize and entrench differences — hence, inequalities — that effectively discipline the "foreign worker" as "not one of Us". By taking the example of Bangladeshi construction workers in Singapore as a case study, I argue in this paper that the workspaces of "foreign construction workers" in Singapore typify that of a "total institution", which correspondingly moulds the worker into a discursive ideal — the "good, docile Other". Such impositions and productions of Otherness, however, face rupture as workers (re)negotiate, (re)work, and (re)inscribe their everyday lives through the employment of what James Scott (1985, 1987) terms "everyday 'resistances'" in rising above that which subjugates them. I will present in this paper primary data elicited and collated from direct participant observation, fieldwork, and in-depth interviews conducted in a construction project in Singapore.


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