Department of English Language and Literature
The discourse of powerlessness and repression: Identity construction in domestic helper narratives
This article analyses domestic helper narratives focusing on identity construction in diaspora. It reports on an ongoing research project in a church shelter in Hong Kong where foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) seek help when they have been abused. Many of the stories told by FDHs are trauma narratives about physical assault, starvation, underpayment, and exploitation, and the article explores how narratives may be used as a means for identity construction, but also as a site for empowering FDHs to re-author their stories and become agents in their own lives. The analyses show how linguistic resources are used to index different identities. They also show that FDHs have to accept forced identities and fight for their right to re-author their own life stories. Finally, the article provides examples of private and public discourses about FDHs in Hong Kong and suggests that ideologies of moral exclusion, or the local codes of argument, serve to legitimise their dehumanisation. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Agency, Discourse analysis, Empowerment, Identity construction, Ideologies of moral exclusion, Narratives
Source Publication Title
Journal of Sociolinguistics
Link to Publisher's Edition
Ladegaard, H. (2012). The discourse of powerlessness and repression: Identity construction in domestic helper narratives. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 16 (4), 450-482. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2012.00541.x