Original and provocative essays on the construction of identity and hegemony
In the intimate context of domestic service, power relations take on one of their most personalized forms. Domestic servants and their employers must formulate their political identities in relationship to each other, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes challenging broader social hierarchies such as those based on class, caste or rank, gender, race and ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and kinship relations.
This pathbreaking collection builds on recent examinations of identity in the postcolonial states of South and Southeast Asia by investigating the ways in which domestic workers and their employers come to know and depict one another and themselves through their interactions inside and outside of the home. This setting provides a particularly apt arena for examining the daily negotiations of power and hegemony.
Contributors to the volume, all anthropologists, provide rich ethnographic analyses that avoid a narrow focus on either workers or employers. Rather, they examine systems of power through specific topics that range from the notion of "nurture for sale" to the roles of morality and humor in the negotiation of hierarchy and the dilemmas faced by foreign employers who find themselves in life-and-death dependence on their servants.
With its provocative theoretical and ethnographic contributions to current debates, this collection will be of interest to scholars in Asian studies, women's studies, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.
Kathleen M. Adams is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Loyola University of Chicago. Sara Dickey is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Bowdoin College.
". . . provides a vivid picture of the women of South and Southeast Asia as they engage in active negotiation. . . . Domestic workers in particular emerge from the pages as those who struggle to better their life chances for their families, enduring journeys of travail, abuse and ambiguities, and yet capable of meeting life with perseverance, humour, and often, a sense of moral victory."- Brenda Yeoh, National University of Singapore
---Brenda Yeoh, National University of Singapore, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, June 2001
"Asianist anthropologists and feminist scholars have much to celebrate with the publication of this anthology. . . . The book not only provides an excellent contribution to the postcolonial/post-structuralist study of domestic service, a relatively under-researched topic in social anthropology, but also gives substance to the often unsubstantiated mantra on 'the intersection of race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion' and other signifiers of power and identity."- Leonora C. Angeles, University of British Columbia
---Leonora C. Angeles, University of British Columbia, Pacific Affairs, Spring 2001
"The strength of the volume lies in the wide variety and scope of the articles that take into consideration the role of gender, sexuality, religion, linguistic patterns, and generational gap in identity articulation of employers and domestics in national and transnational contexts."- Swapna Bannerjee
---Swapna Bannerjee, The Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 60, No. 4