Racialized Language and Social Complexity: The Multilayered Plurilingual Lives of Filipina Migrants in South Korea

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Over the past two decades, South Korea has witnessed substantial demographic shifts, and especially so as a result of a rapid increase in the number of marriage migrants to the country. Focusing on the ethnographic interview accounts of Filipina migrants in Korea, the authors investigate how the performative quality of accented speech in English both enables and constrains migrant women as they attempt to navigate and negotiate power dynamics within families, social relationships, and workplaces, as well as fashion a locally contextualized sense of identity. The following research questions guide this inquiry: How do perceptions of English language and accent performance enable and constrain the social mobility and integration of Filipina marriage migrants in South Korean society? What is the relationship between English accent and racialization in contemporary Korean society as demonstrated in Filipina migrant experiences? Within the Korean context, marriage migrants from Southeast Asian countries are frequently marginalized as cultural and linguistic minorities. However, Filipina migrants’ familiarity with English adds much complexity and nuance to their circumstances and experiences. Through a broadly Bourdieuian-inspired theoretical approach, the authors examine the variegated roles the English language plays in the lives of Filipina migrants and the ways in which Filipina migrants, in turn, grapple with the nuanced racialized implications of their language skills within the larger context of social mobility and integration.


© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2022

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Journal of International Migration and Integration