Narratives as Catalysts for Transformation and Social Action Planning within the Hong Kong Indonesian Migrant Community

Howard Lorne Martyn


This paper discusses the use of written and oral narratives, composed as classroom assignments by adult Indonesian migrant workers, sojourning in Hong Kong. Individually written narratives embody group-common elements that can be acted upon, thus becoming catalysts for personal growth and for group social action planning. Personal growth includes refocusing personal identity away from the societally imposed and devalued ‘domestic helper’, toward identities that offer self-empowerment. Redefining personal identity within a group learning situation also builds group identity which can be directed toward confronting hegemonic forces. This is done on four fronts: firstly, by claiming the symbolic right of cultural space and by demanding respect within the larger Hong Kong community; secondly, by publicly agitating against government policies, such as human rights and minimum wage legislation, that migrant workers believe disadvantage them; thirdly, by increasing ability in English, Cantonese, and basic computer applications that specifically meet Indonesians’ work requirements and interests; and finally, by building the capacity to confront employers in claiming government guaranteed minimum wages and rest days. Through these actions, the opportunity for both personal and societal transformation is created.

Data was collected through journal narratives and semi-structured qualitative interviews with migrants who were taking weekly English languages classes at a small private training center in Hong Kong.

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Asian Social Science   ISSN 1911-2017 (Print)   ISSN 1911-2025 (Online)    Email: 

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