Research Associate / Lecturer
Email: olivia.killias (at)
Tel.: +49 (0)30 2093 - 6639
Fax: +49 (0)30 2093 - 6666
Office: Invalidenstr. 118, Room 116
Trained as a sociologist and anthropologist at the Universities of Lausanne and Amsterdam, Olivia Killias graduated with highest honours from the University of Lausanne and obtained her PhD (summa cum laude) in social anthropology from the University of Bern. Grounded in fourteen months of multi-sited fieldwork, her thesis entitled “Follow the Maid: a Multi-Sited Ethnography of Domestic Worker Migration from Indonesia” examines different but interconnected stages, sites and actors of the migration process. From the recruitment by brokers, to the training in agencies’ secluded camps, the placement abroad and the return back to Indonesia, she followed the paths of women from one particular village on Java who roam near and far for employment in domestic work and researched the conditions under which bonded labour developed in this process. Her dissertation provides fresh insights on domestic worker migration and in particular on the ways in which anti-trafficking discourses have shaped understandings of (il)legal migration in the Indonesian context. It was awarded the prize for Best Dissertation by the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bern in October 2012.
Olivia Killias has taught undergraduate courses in sociology and (media) anthropology as a teaching assistant at the Universities of Neuchâtel, Lausanne and Bern. In 2009, she was awarded a 12-month fellowship for young researchers from the Swiss National Science Foundation and spent six months as a visiting fellow at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford, and six months at the Seminar of Southeast Asian Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
Olivia Killias is currently developing her post-doctoral research project on Islamic consumption and more specifically, the halal tourism industry in Malaysia. This new project is part of a wider BMBF-funded research on ‘Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia’.
- Ethnographies of globalisation
- Anthropology of migration, multi-sited ethnography
- Anthropology of religion, intersections between „religion“ and „economy“
- Postcolonial and feminist theory
- Consumption and material culture
- Regional interests: Indonesia, Malaysia
- WS 2011: Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asia (together with Eva Eichenauer)
Submitted. Review Article: Liebelt, Claudia (2011). Caring for the Holy Land. Sociologus.
2012. Sisters in Islam : un collectif féministe conteste l’autoritarisme étatique et religieux en Malaisie. Nouvelles Questions Féministes 31 (2).
2012. Follow the Maid: a Multi-Sited Ethnography of Domestic Worker Migration from Indonesia (Dissertation defended at University of Bern). Bern: Selbstverlag.
2011. The Visual Production of ‘Maids’. Essay in Visual Anthropology. Tsantsa (16): 140-153
2010. ‘Illegal’ Migration as Resistance: Legality, Morality and Coercion in Indonesian Domestic Worker Migration to Malaysia. Asian Journal of Social Science 38 (6): 897-914
2009. The Politics of Bondage in the Recruitment, Training and Placement of Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers. Sociologus. Zeitschrift für empirische Ethnosoziologie und Ethnopsychologie 2009 (2): 145-172
2009. Following the Maid. Multi-Sited Ethnography in Times of ‘Transnational’ Domestic Labour. Tsantsa (14): 147-151
2005. Un Autre Regard sur l’Islamisation de l’Indonésie: les Pratiques de Consommatrices Musulmanes en Milieu Urbain Indonésien. Bulletin der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft Mittlerer Osten und Islamische Kulturen, March 2005
With De Roo, Roland, Kathrin Oester and Martin Waelchli. 2008. Comprehension Can Cure: Global Migration – Local Solutions in Health Care. 32 Min. By order of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. Production: Artefakt Wort + Bild.
With De Roo, Roland, Kathrin Oester and Martin Waelchli.. 2007. Vivre la Diversité – Vielfalt gestalten. 34 Min. By order of the Swiss Federal Commission on Migration Issues. Production: Artefakt Wort + Bild.
2012 Intimate Encounters: Indonesian Domestic Workers in Malaysia. Paper presented at the 8th Malaysian Studies Conference, UKM, Bangi, 9-11 July
2010 The Making of ‘Quality Maids’: Managing Reproduction Migration between Indonesia and Malaysia. Paper presented at the Conference on Inter-Asian Relations II : Reproduction Migration in Asia Workshop, Singapore, December 8-10
2010 About the (Im)mobilization of Mobile Women: States and the Transnational Networks of Commercial Labour Recruitment Agencies. Paper presented at the international conference MOVE, Neuchâtel, June 7-8
2009 The Personal Bond Between Maid and Madam. Contractual and Other Forms of Dependency in Contemporary Transnational Domestic Labour. Paper presented at the International Convention of Asian Scholars in Daejeon, South Korea, August 6-9
2008 Made in Indonesia. The Politics of Bondage in the Recruitment, Training and Placement of Migrant Javanese Domestic Workers. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Swiss Society of Ethnology. Geneva, November 21-22
2007 Paper presented at the conference on « Debt, Mobility and Dependency in Southeast Asia », Asia Research Centre for Migration, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, August 30-31
Seminars and Lectures
2012 The Disturbing Mobility of „Maids“: Negotiating Migration in a Javanese Village. Paper presented at the Kanita Forum on Women, Gender and Migration, KANITA, Universiti Sains Malaysia (Malaysia), November 8
2012 Comment “rendre mobile” les méthodes: quelques observations sur l’ethnographie multi-site. Paper presented in the lecture of Prof. Dr. Janine Dahinden and Dr. Anna Neubauer on “Méthodes et Recherches Qualitatives en Sciences Sociales”, MAPS, University of Neuchatel, March 28
2012 Geister, Besessenheit und transnationaler Islam: religiöse Motive in der Arbeitsmigration von Indonesischen Hausarbeiterinnen. Paper presented in the seminar of Prof. Dr. Manja Stephan, „Räumliche Mobilität in muslimischen Kontexten“, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, January 26
2011 Time in the anthropological study of mobility: notes from a multi-sited ethnography of domestic worker migration. Paper presented at the Seminar of the Institute of Social Anthropology, Bern University, September 28
2011 Institutions et migrations: une introduction. Paper presented in Prof. Dr. Ellen Hertz’ seminar “Anthropologie des Organisations”, Institute of Ethnology, University of Neuchatel, October 27
2010 The Making of ‘Quality Maids’. Paper presented at the Work in Progress Session, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, Oxford University, November 4
2010 The State as the Enemy of Women who Move Around: Legality, Morality and Coercion in Indonesian Domestic Worker Migration to Malaysia. Paper presented at the module „State“ with Prof. Dr. James C. Scott and Prof. Dr. Jürg Helbling at the Swiss Graduate School in Social Anthropology, Lucerne, March
2009 Made in Indonesia. The Politics of Bondage in the Recruitment, Training and Placement of Javanese Transnational Domestic Workers. Paper presented at the Seminar of Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt Universität Berlin, April
2008 Made in Indonesia. The Politics of Bondage in the Recruitment, Training and Placement of Javanese Transnational Domestic Workers. Paper presented at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, October
2008 Javanese Domestic Workers in Malaysia. Paper presented at the Department of Anthropology, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, April
2008 Malaysia and its ‘Indon Maids’. Presentation by invitation of Sheila Murugasu, Monash University, Kuala Lumpur, April
2008 Indonesian Domestic Workers at Home and Abroad. Presentation at IKMAS, Universitas Kebangsaan Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, April
2006 Bonded in Intimacy. Space in the Context of Domestic Work. Paper presented at the module “Space” with Prof. Dr. Waltraud Kokot and Prof. Dr. Walter Leimgruber of the Swiss Graduate School in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Basle, November