Liebelt, “Mama Mary”

Liebelt, Claudia. 2014. The “Mama Mary” of the White City’s Underside: Reflections on a Filipina Domestic Workers’ Block Rosary in Tel Aviv, Israel. In Migrant Domestic Workers in the Middle East: The Home and the World, edited by Bina Fernandez and Marina de Regt.  Pp: 95-116. New York: Palgrave. 

Excerpt: Each Friday, a loose network of Catholic migrant domestic workers, almost exclusively women from the Philippines, carries a figure of the Virgin Mary through the marginalized neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, Israel. As the figure is carried from one participant’s home to another of this so-called block rosary, they believe “she” (the Virgin Mary) blesses these homes and the surrounding neighborhood, hears hundreds of the women’s petitions, creates a community of devotees, and performs miracles. Against the backdrop of the troubled neighborhood’s Friday night life and the turbulence of the devotees’ own lives, “Mama Mary,” as she is tenderly addressed, has come to stand for compassion, refuge, and protection. This chapter seeks to describe and analyze domestic workers’ Marian devotion in a complex Middle Eastern locale. In doing so, this chapter contributes to the literature on diaspora, gender, and religion and investigates ritual performance and processes of homemaking in the context of female migrants’ diasporic journeys and a gendered global economy based on the international division and feminization of labor, especially in the field of reproduction and care.

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