Commodification of Domestic Labour and the Making of the Chilean Nation.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rosario FERNANDEZ, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Drawing on fieldwork performed in Santiago 2014, I will reflect on the relation between current dynamics of commodification of care with State and upper class ideologies regarding womanhood, family and the nation in Chile. In addition, I discuss how this relation tensions feminist debates in decolonial contexts. In the interviews conducted, upper class housewives often describe their experience with paid domestic labour as a ‘necessary evil’, both in commodity terms (having a domestic worker) and in negative terms (feelings of betrayals, discomfort and guilt). Furthermore, they justify the employment of domestic workers mainly through two arguments: first, without them their upper class lifestyle would be impossible; second, they are doing workers a favour by providing a stable and ‘good home’. This two-way justification –the total need (their own dependency) and doing a favour (the workers dependency)- intrigued me to further understand how this ‘dependant’ relationship dialogues with current forms of commodification of care in Chile. I follow the relation between this process of commodification and the dependency relationship by looking at the importance of domestic labour in the national culture making process. I will argue that domestic labour is further commodified insofar as it enables the reproduction of the ‘Chilean happy family’ –a State based project- which acquires predominance in a context of neoliberal policies and ‘gender friendly governments’. Thus, the commodification of care reproduces the ‘feminist promise’ of autonomy for white upper class women promoted by the state after 2000, while justifying the inclusion of a ‘strange domestic worker’ in the intimate homes as a humanitarian act towards poor, immigrant and indigenous women. In this way, the State and the upper class family model can present itself as modern and gender friendly, without disassembling the traditional bond between nation and family.