Moving Dirt: Relationality and Complementarity in Domestic Work/ers
The term domestic worker contributes to a range of borders and suppressions where certain bodies are marked in material discursive practices as placed, classed, gendered and raced in relation to activities marked as reproductive labour. Drawing on ideas on relationality, performance and language, this paper examines instances of exploitation and hostility in domestic work and their sometimes co-existence with relations and discourses of hospitality and intimacy between domestic workers and those for whom they work. The foci of attention here include domestic work in the Middle East under the kafala system of employment; shifts in race- and gender-marking of domestic work in early decades of the 20th century in colonial South Africa; and, in conclusion, a contemporary case study, describing a conflictual encounter between a Black female domestic worker and her employer’s White male partner that resulted in the woman leaving her career in domestic work and the man going to jail.
Keywords: domestic work(er), material-discursive practices, relationality, performativity, together/apart