Migrant Idol : The Virtuous & Virtuosic Labour of OFW Singing Contestants

Anjeline DE DIOS

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Researchpeer-review


Is it possible to listen to musical mimicry on its own terms, and if so, from what register must we attend to its sonorities? In the following paper I address this query through a contemplation on the recognisable figure of the OFW contestant, featured in The Voice, The X Factor, ___’s Got Talent, and other American and British reality TV franchises in migrant caregiver destinations such as Israel, Ireland, and Kuwait. Rather than rehearse a narrow postcolonial critique of American cultural imperialism, I argue that OFW contestants’ mimetic labour of secondary performance (Frith, 2011)—where the value of live music lies in its embodied fidelity to a prior authoritative version known and beloved by the audience—employs the popular song repertoire to fulfil a triumphal narrative of virtue, that of migrant ordinariness as musical excellence. The OFW contestant’s star turn onstage strikes a momentary, yet enduring, counterpoint to the migrant caregiver’s precarious lot as a marginalised and undervalued worker in their destination countries through their labour of virtuosic entertainment, albeit through a parallel affect of care. By recalibrating a critical register of listening to attend to the emplaced and embodied dimensions of mimicry, I hope to render audible the more complex ways in which mimicry works to valorise Philippine migrant subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2019
EventInter-Asia Cultural Studies 2019 Conference: Fluid Circuits : Cultures of Knowledge After the Digital Turn - Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Philippines
Duration: 1 Aug 20193 Aug 2019


ConferenceInter-Asia Cultural Studies 2019 Conference
CityDumaguete City
Internet address


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