Embodiment as A Conceptual Framework for Studying the Intersection of Aging and Migration in Asia

Ms Michelle Ong1

1University of the Philippines Dept. of Psychology, Quezon City, Philippines

Migration and ageing are both phenomena that are understood in the wider literature as being shaped by a global shift to neoliberal ethics, by sexism, and by ageism. These social-political forces produce conditions that can disadvantage migrants, women, and older people. In Asia, where both phenomena have long been objects of concern, there is a growing need for the intersection of migration and ageing to be studied in the context of dramatic socio-economic and political differences and change among and within countries.

This presentation argues that embodiment, which is taken to include “both the subjective meanings of the lived experience of the body for particular individuals and how those subjective meanings are modified by particular social and cultural contexts” (Paulson & Willig, 2008, p. 107), is a powerful concept for examining the binaries that define social scientific debates and divisions: mind and body, structure and agency, society and individual, macro and micro, social and biological, material and discursive. Using the case of older migrant women from the Philippines, I will illustrate how the embodiment of “successful ageing” reflects dominant discourses around gender, age, and migrant status and have implications for subjectivity and the material body.


Michelle G. Ong teaches at the University of the Philippines CSSP Dept. of Psychology. She earned her PhD from the University of Auckland, where she did research on Filipino migrants’ embodiment of ageing in New Zealand. Her research interests include: indigenous Filipino psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino), migration, ageing, and children’s rights


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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