Demonising the cultural Other: Legitimising dehumanisation of foreign domestic helpers in the Hong Kong press

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17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recent research has provided evidence of the widespread abuse and exploitation of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong. This article explores how domestic abuse of foreign labour may be legitimised through public discourses. It analyses examples from the press of court cases involving FDHs, and compares the media's version of events with the domestic worker's story as it was recorded at a church shelter for abused migrant women. The analyses show that the press engages in positive us-presentation and negative them-presentation. Employers' crimes against FDHs are consistently mitigated and explained, whereas FDHs' offences against their employers are characterised as evil actions committed by 'aliens' with a flawed character. The article argues that FDHs are dehumanised in the press which contributes to their moral exclusion. Thus, a culture of indifference has developed where public and private discourses construct FDHs as non-entities, expendable and undeserving, and therefore, exploiting them is widely seen as acceptable and just. •The Hong Kong press engages in positive us-presentation and negative them-presentation.•Foreign domestic helpers are portrayed as 'aliens' with 'strange' beliefs.•Local employers' crimes against foreign domestic helpers are mitigated.•Foreign domestic helpers are demonised in the press.•Media narratives about foreign domestic helpers legitimise their dehumanistation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
JournalDiscourse, Context and Media
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Elite racism
  • Foreign domestic helpers
  • Media language
  • Moral exclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication

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