Demand for domestic workers (i.e. workers engaged in care and general housekeeping activities) is on the rise in Europe. The demand is due to the interplay of various factors such as the ageing of the population, women’s participation in the labour market, inadequate public provision of care, as well as the unequal division of care […]
Migrant domestic work
Video registration of the seminar “Paid domestic work: contemporary forms and past legacies,” organised by the Gender, Race & Sexuality Working Group at the European University Institute on 16 April 2014. Video and editing: Elena Borghi. Speakers: Swapna Banerjee, Vera Pavlou and Raffaella Sarti.
Women and men attach all kinds of values to the range of activities which they refer to as work. Such subjective evaluations of work are shaped by and exist in tension with cultural representations of work, and the value of work as defined in economic terms and academic and public debate. This workshop focuses on the tensions between individual and public valuations of work, and explores the ways in which the gendered construction of work sheds light on these tensions.
Today, when comes to racism and ethnicity-based discriminations, the attention of European media and policymakers is predominantly on discriminations against Muslims, Roma and other minorities. Instead, the preoccupation of people who consider they are oppressed because of their skin colour generally remains without a response. This paper thus contributes to the discussion around the specificities of discrimination based on people’s skin colour, and what this means for society in general and, especially, for the people who experience it in person. These are also the concerns of the scholars who have elaborated the notion of a ‘Black Europe’ that I am choosing as reference framework with the aim of drawing attention to the question of blackness and to the way it affects the experience of migration to Europe.
In order to do this, I will refer to the subjective experience of a group of women who migrated from Suriname to the Netherlands during the 60s and 70s. As I will show, this group shares the common self-identifications of Blacks and at the same time of postcolonial migrants – as was the case for many of those who migrated to Europe from former colonies. Moreover, these women have in common the fact that they found employment in the domestic work sector in the city of Rotterdam. Their memories are a small and yet significant example of the negotiations that Black migrants in Europe have made in order to resist the race-based discriminatory attitudes they encountered after their arrival. […]