Accepted Paper:

Domestic workers and the morality of money and family care  


Eulalia Torra Borras (Universitat de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on the case of the live-in domestic workers we can explore an interesting example of how money buys relations of care and help and how the morality involved in the payment constructs relations of reciprocity or exploitation.

Paper long abstract:

The economic dimension of domestic work has been largely explored and discussed over the last decades, arising how difficult can be to detach its economic value from the moral universe of love and reciprocity within the domestic group.

The wages earned by domestic workers give us the opportunity to explore the division between money and love that sustains the work of household reproduction. Moreover, focusing in the case of live-in domestic workers we can analyse how money is embedded in the moral universe of the family and how money constructs relations of reciprocity or exploitation. By the other side, beyond the contractual relation between the domestic workers and the family for whom they work, the wages are usually one of the main ways to hold the relation of love and care with their own families abroad –which depend of their remittances in most of the cases.

Based on a fieldwork about domestic service in Barcelona (Spain) and Montréal (Canada), together with some significant ethnographic examples, the aim of the paper is to explore the moral universe in which the monetary payment is embedded.

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Relations that money can buy: negotiating mutualities and asymmetries in local and translocal social fields