English-speaking and educated female domestic workers in contemporary India: New managerial roles, social mobility and persistent inequality

Grover, Shalini (2018) English-speaking and educated female domestic workers in contemporary India: New managerial roles, social mobility and persistent inequality. Journal of South Asian Development, 13 (2). pp. 186-209. ISSN 09731741

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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.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Aspirations | Class-race | Domestic workers | Female work force participation
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Education
JGU School/Centre: Jindal School of Liberal Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Mr Sombir Dahiya
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2021 10:44
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 14:41
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/0973174118788008
Funders: The Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, India, Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi, India
Additional Information: I am grateful to Anne-Meike Fechter, Anuja Agrawal, Ingrid Therwath, Johanna Lessinger, Kabita Mary Chakraborty, Katie Walsh, Maria Platt, Sanna Schliewe, Seema Arora-Jonsson, Srila Roy and Vegard Iversen for their suggestions. I extend my grati�tude to Charu Gupta, Danielle Teeuwen, Elise Van Nederveen Meerkerk, Emiko Ochiai, N. Neetha, Nandita Chaudhary, Nitin Varma, Nitin Sinha and Shanthi Thambiah who invited me to conferences in Indonesia, Japan, Delhi and Malaysia. My co-editors, Patricia Jeffery and Thomas Chambers have provided enormous support in refining this article, while the anonymous referee reports proved crucial for strengthening the argu�ments. A special thanks to Arup Mitra for his instrumental role in having organized with us the international conference, ‘Redefining Labour Roles in a Globalizing India’ in January 2016. Finally, I am indebted to the International Labor Office (ILO), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, expatriates who permitted their reference letters and excerpts to be used in this study, and most of all to the many domestic workers for their precious inputs.
URI: https://pure.jgu.edu.in/id/eprint/311


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