SEAC Seminar Series: Foreign, 'Fresh' and 173cm: The Commodification of Domestic Workers in Singapore

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Online Event


Dr Laura Antona

Dr Laura Antona

ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford


Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Prof Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, LSE

SEAC is hosting a research seminar chaired by SEAC Director Prof. Hyun Bang Shin on 9th December 2020. Dr Laura Antona (ESRC Research Fellow, University of Oxford) will be speaking on "Foreign, ‘Fresh' and 173cm: The Commodification of Domestic Workers in Singapore".

While it is well established that domestic work has long been commodified, domestic workers have also become commodities that are traded, sold, marketized, and fetishized, like other inanimate objects/products. In Singapore, as in other nations, employment agencies are central to this process, producing biodata to advertise and sell domestic workers to prospective employers, dehumanising and objectifying them in doing so. Drawing on ethnographic research that I conducted in Singapore, I will demonstrate how employment agencies commodify and sell domestic labourers, shaping their relationships with their employers and the spaces in which they live and work: namely, the home space.

  • Dr Laura Antona is an ESRC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford and is completing a project titled: 'Shelters as Spaces of Care and Violence: The everyday experiences of detained and deported migrant domestic workers in Southeast Asia'. Dr Antona holds a PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she was supervised by Professor Hyun Bang Shin and the late Professor Sylvia Chant. Prior to this, she gained both an MSc (Building and Urban Design in Development) and BSc (Urban Planning, Design and Management) from University College London.
  • Prof Hyun Bang Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies in the Department of Geography and Environment and Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economic dynamics of speculative urbanisation, the politics of redevelopment and displacement, gentrification, housing, the right to the city, and mega-events as urban spectacles, with particular attention to cities in Asian countries such as South Korea, China, Vietnam and Singapore. His recent projects on ‘circulating urbanism and (Asian) capital’ have also brought him to work on Quito, Manila, Iskandar Malaysia, Kuwait City and London. Prof Shin has published widely in major international journals and contributed to numerous books on the above themes. He has coauthored Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), edited Anti-Gentrification: What Is to Be Done (Dongnyok, 2017), and co-edited Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement (Bristol University Press, 2015) and Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He is a board member (trustee) of the Urban Studies Foundation, and sits on the international advisory board of the journal Antipode as well as on the editorial board of the journals International Journal of Urban and Regional Research; Urban Geography; CITY; City, Culture and Society; Space and Environment [in Korea]; China City Planning Review [in China].