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English-speaking and Educated Female Domestic Workers in Contemporary India

Shalini Grover

Journal of South Asian Development, 2018, vol. 13, issue 2, 186-209

Abstract: This article foregrounds a labour market for English-speaking and educated female domestic workers and their Western expatriate employers. Many women in this anthropological study had left office jobs and institutional environs connoting dignity to take up employment in Euro-American households performing what is widely perceived as low-status work. Using the narratives of domestic workers, this article scrutinizes motivations for opting for a stigmatized occupation and finds women’s accounts to be multilayered and provocative, thereby challenging established generalizations. In the intimate space of the expatriate household, these female workers diligently perform the tasks of an ‘all-rounder’ that represents a new managerial role in globalizing India. As part of expanding niche labour markets, the article highlights how these roles demand eclectic skill sets, professionalism, certified training, transnational experience and gender-specific expertise. Nonetheless, a key leitmotif is how domestic service with expatriates’ remains embedded in power relations and class-race hierarchies. In developing the anthropology of domestic labour, this article illuminates the continuation of persistent inequality and stratification in a locally functioning transnational labour market.

Keywords: Domestic workers; western expatriates; female work force participation; skill sets; aspirations; global care chains; class-race (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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Handle: RePEc:sae:soudev:v:13:y:2018:i:2:p:186-209