International Conference: “Towards a Global History of Domestic Workers and Caregivers”
Thursday 12 September – Sunday 15 September, 2013
Organizer: International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH)
Venue: Jägermayrhof, Roemerstr 98, 4020 Linz, Austria
Simultaneous Translation: English – German
Co-ordinators: Silke Neunsinger (Stockholm), Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk (Amsterdam), Dirk Hoerder (Salzburg), Marcel van der Linden (Amsterdam), Raquel Varela (Lisbon); for the ITH: Berthold Unfried, Eva Himmelstoss
Advisory Committee: Josef Ehmer, Donna Gabaccia, Vasant Kaiwar, Amarjit Kaur, Elizabeth Kuznesof, Sucheta Mazumdar
Background and Approaches
The conference focuses on the global history of domestic workers in private homes, a labour market that over time has included, in addition to physical labour, care for infants, children, and the elderly (“emotional labour”).
Work done outside of homes in (small) business or caregiving institutions (hospitals, old people’s nursing homes) will be the topic of a later conference. Domestic work, now usually designated as “domestic and caregiving” work, has also been assigned to men in the racializations that (colonial but also postcolonial) societies imposed on men of colours-of-skin other than white. Work in households other than one’s own is not only a global phenomenon with area-specific variations and regimes, it is also one with a history extending over centuries and changing over the ages, e.g. the shift extended families – nuclear families – dual-income families. Migration of women to such service positions is not as new as some observers claim. Nevertheless, the social sciences have failed to develop analyses with both long-term historical and global perspectives. The recent ILO Convention “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” (2011) is the first international agreement in which domestic workers had a voice.
In the last decade research, esp. feminist research, has increasingly paid attention to the global history of domestic employees (“servants”) and to caregiving in private homes. These workers, the vast majority of whom have been women, have always been especially exposed to employer arbitrariness and have had a particularly weak negotiating position. Their working conditions were and are usually hidden behind the walls of the “private sphere”. Conditions and positions vary depending on societal structures for example between Latin America, China, and Europe. The history of domestic workers is and always has been a history of migration. While the migrant status has often been used to explain the neglect of these women in the history of the labour movement, working in the households of strangers and migration for household labour has, in fact, a far longer history than the industrial labour movement. Research needs to include free and unfree workers, live-in domestics and service personnel with their own accommodation, men and women, adults and children, but not apprentices in workshops that are housed in masters’ homes.
What are the similarities and differences both between the world’s regions and over time from the early modern to the modern period? What transfers occur? “Towards a Global History of Domestic Workers and Caregivers” in long-term perspective aims at developing an analysis that, by bringing this neglected category of working women and men into focus, will contribute to a new, comprehensive history of labour. Thus this conference expands the traditional history of both the classic labour movement and the history of male and female working-class culture in the productive sphere by incorporating the reproductive sphere – including care for children and the elderly (“emotional labour”). Work regimes range from paid to enslaved household work. The overall goal is an inclusive gendered history of men’s and women’s work in the inextricably entwined spheres of productive and reproductive work.
Present-day domestic work will form the core of the analyses but a historical approach is indispensable. Presenters from across the globe will help avoid a Eurocentric focus.
For a detailed program and further information please visit: http://www.ith.or.at/konf_e/49_index_e.htm
Conference fee, registration information and download of the registration form at: http://www.ith.or.at/konf_e/org_13_e.htm
To attend the seminar, please register by sending the form to email@example.com (Deadline: 15 August 2013)
International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH)
Wipplinger Str. 6
A-1010 Vienna, Austria
Phone +43 (0)1 2289 469-316
Fax +43 (0)1 2289 469-391 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at http://www.ith.or.at
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