The Home and the World: Domestic Service and International Networks of Caring Labor

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Abstract

The employment of immigrant domestic workers is a valuable entry point for examining the construction of class and racial-ethnic differences among women in a global economy. It also reveals the complex ways that social reproduction, like production, is shaped by international connections and flows. This article draws on interviews with thirty-two immigrant domestic workers and twenty-nine employers of domestic workers in San Diego to examine the organization of caring labor in the two sets of households. The interview data show that employers of domestic workers rely on paid service workers to supply additional labor, while domestic workers rely on the unpaid labor of family members. Neither group relies primarily on government support, although differences in citizenship status influence the strategies of the two groups. The article draws on the interviews to make two related points. First, it argues that social reproduction has come, in some places, to involve networks that cross international borders. Second, it argues that the interrelated strategies the two groups of women use to access caring labor are informed by and contribute to class and racial-ethnic differences among women and their households, and that citizenship is of particular importance in constructing and solidifying these differences.

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