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Crossing Oceans: Testimonial Theatre, Filipina Migrant Labor, Empathy, and Engagement

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Caleb Johnston



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Framed within the geopolitics of empathy, we describe the process of taking a testimonial play, based on verbatim research interview transcripts with Filipina domestic workers, their families, employers and nanny agents in Vancouver Canada, to the Philippines to present to audiences there, including to members of domestic workers’ families. Aspects of the script and the staging of the play were reworked to solicit empathy in a context where the challenging experiences of domestic workers in Canada sometimes are not heard -- even within families, given the popular image of Canada as a land of opportunity and the perception that Canada is relatively inclusive in terms of labour rights and paths to permanent residency. Interviews with 7 family members who attended the play offer some clues to assessing performance as a space for critical, sometimes uncomfortable forms of empathy. Rather than a purely affirming experience, we argue that empathy can lead to a fuller recognition of the suffering upon which one's one good life depends and challenge fantasies of the good life, in this case, attainable through migration to Canada.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pratt G, Johnston C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: GeoHumanities

Year: 2017

Volume: 3

Issue: 2

Pages: 279-291

Online publication date: 21/02/2017

Acceptance date: 04/11/2016

Date deposited: 24/02/2017

ISSN (print): 2373-566X

ISSN (electronic): 2373-5678

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/2373566X.2016.1278178


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