When Does the Dust Finally Settle? Peruvian Household Workers, Reproductive Labor, and Sweeping Changes

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:10 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Katherine MAICH , Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, NEW YORK, NY
Peru is currently understood as one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, one whose wealth is highly concentrated in the capital, fueling a centralized and unregulated flow of labor. Many indigenous internal migrants work as trabajadoras del hogar in Lima, situated within a vulnerable context since their work is highly gendered and isolated in the home, where threats of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender and class loom. This practice of domestic labor is broadly accepted in Peruvian culture, demonstrating the profoundly deep, entrenched nature of colonial relations within contemporary Limeño society. 

I analyze domestic work as both a daily, lived-out practice and a culturally inscribed phenomenon within Peruvian society. Peru passed national labor protections for trabajadoras del hogar ten years ago, though with negligible improvements in the lives of its household workers as the law offers no minimum wage, few benefits, and lacks real enforcement in practice. Based on nine months of in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, I investigate outcomes of political inclusion and state-granted labor rights for these women workers, privy to capital’s growth and yet [arguably] further marginalized through labor (mis)regulation as they continue to sweep, iron, cook, and care for the future class of Limeños. My research finds that rather than Lima paving the way for a modern, egalitarian Peruvian state, inequality and colonial relations are alive and well in Limeño homes, with serious consequences for a future, more egalitarian, and ‘modern’ Peru and Latin America.

How does the implementation and specifics of legislation come to bear on the lives of those it attempts to “protect”? My dissertation grapples with the intersection of gender, law, and the political economy of domestic work in Peru with specific attention to challenges facing women workers confronting the burden of colonial history on a daily basis.