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Middle-class Filipinos in Voluntary Associations and their Diasporic Identity in the United Arab Emirates

Tue, June 23, 4:05 to 6:00pm, South Building, Floor: South, S1101


This paper looks into how Filipino population in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) develop a sense of place in globalization, with special focus on the subjectivity and everyday practices of members in voluntary associations.
In the UAE, where foreign population occupies over 80% of the total population, foreign workers – despite the fact that they are the majority in terms of the volume – experience double isolation: geographic dislocation from their respective home country, and legal and social exclusion by the host country that systematically divides foreign population by nationality and class. Given such a contradictory social environment, some recent works has begun investigating various forms of belonging among foreign workers who have been long staying in the emirates without any prospect of acquiring citizenship.
This paper sheds light to Filipino professionals participating in voluntary associations and other related groups, a phenomenon which have not yet paid much attention to. In the UAE, there exist over one hundred of Filipino associations registered at the Philippine Embassy and numerous other non-registered groups engaging in voluntary activities to assist their kababayan (compatriots) in distress. Professionals and their family members are particularly active in such voluntary activities. By examining their activities and narratives, this paper demonstrates how their subjective involvement in directly assisting other kababayan may give rise to a sense of belonging among them, which not only encompasses being part of the broad “Imagined (Global) Community” of overseas Filipino workers, but also provides a localized nuance to it.