Assumptions of freedom: racial neoliberalism and the human rights of migrant domestic workers

Thumbnail Image
Chu, Jaime
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Why do the laws of prosperous neoliberal economies tolerate systemic human rights violations even as the economy is valorized for possessing the legal features of a sophisticated liberal society? This thesis interrogates the impact of racial neoliberalism on the adjudication of the human rights of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, a zone of neoliberal exception under successive nondemocratic British colonial and socialist Chinese sovereignty. Understanding neoliberalism as more than a negative, deregulatory program of non-interventionism, this work proceeds from the approach of contemporary Law and Political Economy scholarship to problematize the systemic deficit in the human rights protection of migrant domestic workers as a positive vision of the neoliberal state to encase migrant domestic labor in regulatory frameworks that subordinate the human rights of migrant domestic workers’ to a racial capitalist legal regime. Foregrounded by the racial ideology that buttressed colonial capitalism and the modern racialization of labor, landmark court judgments since the 2000s have consequentially foreclosed future human rights claims for migrant domestic workers relying on Hong Kong’s international human rights obligations to the ICCPR and ICESCR. Capitalist inequality becomes embodied in racialized and gendered migrant domestic labor through a colonially compromised legal institution symptomatic of the precarity of universal human rights protection under the normative success of global neoliberalism.
Second semester University: University of Tartu
migrants, domestic workers, human rights, racism, capitalism, neoliberalism, Hong Kong