Reclaiming Agency through the Politics of the In_Visible Body

Illegalized Migration and Self-Representation of Women Domestic Workers in Switzerland

  • Victor Santos Rodriguez Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)
  • Maevia Griffiths Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)
Keywords: agency, in_visibility, securitization of migration, bodies, gender, undocumented domestic workers


This article deepens our understanding of agency in the context of (in)securitized migration by engaging with the experiences of ‘undocumented’ women domestic workers in Switzerland. By linking the securitization framework with gaze theories and ontologies of the body, the following article accounts for migrants’ embodied and gendered experiences of (in)security and agency. In this perspective, the same bodies which are subjected to domination become tools of resistance enacted through a politics of in_visibilities. While these women mobilize strategies of invisibilization (camouflage, spatial practices of avoidance) to resist deportation, they simultaneously reappropriate self-representation by visibilizing their embodied presence within Switzerland’s visual field, creating a counter-gaze to their (in)securitization. This is manifest in the three cases of embodied plural performances studied through a methodology that combines interviews and filmmaking. While protesting, dancing and testifying illustrate how practices of bodily display can be used as collective rehumanizing tools, they also show how this mobilized visibility remains constrained by women’s (in)securitized conditions. Their agency becomes apparent in their ability to navigate this fine line, that is, the ways in which they creatively engage with the liminal spaces between the visible and the invisible to visually and politically inscribe their incarnated existence, overall destabilizing the securitized gaze.