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Accepted Paper:

The work for another life: motherly labour, educational aspirations and a reconsideration of social reproduction  


Marisol Verdugo-Paiva (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

The daily paid and unpaid work of mothers who hope their daughters can reach better educational and labour futures in Chile obliges us to rethink the relationship between reproductive labour, social reproduction and the possibility for class and gender transformation.

Paper long abstract:

While school-aged working-class youth in a former industrial city in Chile navigate between educational aspirations and a changing labour market in their search for social mobility, mothers use their care work and housework to ensure that their children, especially daughters, avoid domestic responsibilities and continue their studies. In turn, young women are aware of the self-sacrifice of their mothers and hope that with better educational and labour futures they might become economically independent from men and help their mothers to 'move forward' from poverty and machista relationships. Ethnographic attention to how mothers and daughter's desires exceed what would be simply reproduced in terms of class and gender illustrate how reproductive labour is crucial not only for the social reproduction of capitalist society but could also have disruptive potential, even if in uncertain ways. Perhaps paradoxically, the anticipative daily paid and unpaid work of mothers reminds us of how the work of social reproduction - to make a living, and a life worth living - far from being exclusively framed around an ongoing 'maintenance' of a set of social relationships, might also contain the seed for its own transformation.

Panel P100
Rethinking work, power and social reproduction in and beyond Europe [Anthropology of Labour Network]