Dealing with neoliberal discourse: Slovak au pairs and their creation of life projects
Zuzana Sekeráková Búriková
Paper short abstract:
This paper contextualises the motivations of Slovak women for au pair migration by relating them to neo-liberal discourse. Arguing that traditional modes of creating biographies in the area have been challenged I will show how au pairs see their migration as necessary for their life projects.
Paper long abstract:
This paper contextualises the motivations of Slovak women for au pair migration by relating them to neo-liberal interpretations of post/socialism and discourse of neo-liberal governmentality (MacNay 2009). Neoliberal politicians, economists and the media in Slovakia have often portrayed the socialist period as an era when the natural flow of history and modernity stopped for forty years and the collapse of actually existing socialism as a return to the mainline of western modernity (Holy 1996). A consequence of this discourse has been a general sense amongst the population, as well as policy-makers, that not only the political economy of Slovak society, but also subjectivities of its inhabitants, need to change. Consequently, traditional modes of creating of personhood and biographies in the area have been challenged (Dunn 2004): a secure life tied with only one locality is not only impossible anymore, but it is no longer understood as ideal. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork amongst Slovak au pairs working in London in 2004 -2005, I will show how au pairs have come to see a temporary stay in Western countries as necessary for their careers and personal development. I will reveal how au pairs stress importance of studying the language, learning new skills and improving their chances for better employment arguing that this socially (and ideologically) legitimate discourse of self-improvement frequently conceals a set of rather more complex goals associated with migration, in particular search for freedom and empowerment in particular relationships and growing up and gaining independence.
Re-embedding the market economy: innovation, legacy, and techniques of intimate sociality after socialism