Intersectional Views on the Transnational Domestic Workers’ Movement

CONFERENCE PAPERS

Abstract

The transnational paid domestic workers’ movement arguably represents an important case to explore the challenges and opportunities of applying an intersectional framework to the analysis of social movements’ claims, identities and strategies. The paper aims to address these questions by taking a comparative look at paid domestic workers organising in nine countries involved in the project “DomEQUAL: A global approach to paid domestic work and social inequalities”.
First evidence suggests that, while domestic workers globally articulate their claims in the labour rights field, their struggle for “decent work” also addresses the redefinition of the cultural meanings associated with reproductive work, and involves a challenge to the gender, race, class and other social hierarchies implicated in its unequal distribution at the local and transnational level. Paid domestic workers’ struggles keep at the center the issue of symbolic and material violence that they are subjected to, on the basis of their intersectionally subordinated social positions – as migrant women, racialized women, or women of lower classes and caste, etc. Labour organising in this case appears to go hand in hand with self-help work around self-representation and identity, and domestic workers’ movements mobilise deep emotions related to stigmatisation, shame and silence.
The analysis will focus on the intersectional framing of these claims, as well as on the strategies of domestic workers’ organizations, investigating the original forms of organising developed by this traditionally ‘unorganisable’ workforce and by the multiply-marginalized social groups that are mostly employed in the sector. Special attention will be paid to the relationships with women’s and feminist movements, as well with other relevant actors and organisations working in close-by fields, namely in relation to women’s rights, race and caste, migration and trafficking, labour rights, disability.