Intimate Labour As Cross-Border Survival: Narratives of Arrival Among Hatian Migrant Domestic Workers in the Dominican Republic

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Masaya LLAVANERAS BLANCO, Wilfrid Laurier University - Balsillie School of International Affairs, Canada
Together with sex work and petit trade, domestic work is one of the three main sources of income for Haitian migrant women in the Dominican Republic (Petrozzielo and Wooding, 2013). I argue that care work and other forms of intimate labour (Boris and Parreñas, 2010), paid and unpaid, are at the heart of Haitian migrant women’s migration experience as a strategy for survival. In other words: they provide intimate labour in order to survive. My argument draws on extensive qualitative data collected through interviews and focus groups held in Haitian and Dominican border towns, bateyes (sugar plantation communities) in south-west DR, and Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, with Haitian women who work as domestic workers in the DR. Their testimonies frequently refer to the provision of unpaid care work to distant relatives that host them when newly-arrived (often as children or youth) as well as the provision of similar work for adult men who they meet upon arrival and who provide shelter and limited social protection in exchange for unpaid care and other forms of intimate labour, including sex. Informants narrate these arrival arrangements as a matter of survival, and often portray them as foundational to the formation of their families and as training for their future incursions in the labour market. In this context, the boundaries between paid and unpaid care work, transactional sex, and other forms of intimate labour are often blurred in the quest for survival that permeates their migration experiences.