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

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)


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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    DE DIOS, A. (2019). Migrant Idol : The Virtuous & Virtuosic Labour of OFW Singing Contestants. Paper presented at Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 2019 Conference, Dumaguete City, Philippines.