CfP: Histories of Domestic Labor: Resistance and Organization (Publication: International Labor and Working-Class History); DL: 15.05.2014

A Special Issue of International Labor and Working-Class History (ILWCH) (Web), Guest Editors: Eileen Boris and Premilla Nadasen

This special issue of ILWCH will bring together historical research and writing on paid private household labor and conditions under which domestic workers in different locations and in different time periods were able to resist and organize around the conditions of their work. We are interested in the ideological constructions of this form of labor, especially in relation to the politics of race, gender, ethnicity, class, nation, and culture. The issue will explore the resistance and organizing strategies of domestic workers in the context of the history of labor organizing and the ways in which their organizing has intersected with, overlapped with, or contrasted with other models of labor resistance. We are interested in how the contours and character of the job over time and space generate both general and particular challenges and opportunities for worker resistance, organizing and mobilization. We further wish to understand what constructions of domestic workers reveal about attitudes toward the worth of workers and the value of their labor. Particularly salient are affective, spacial, legal, and economic factors, including intimacy, ideologies of privacy, cultures of servitude, location, isolation, informal contracts, lack of regulation, and legal barriers. We seek empirical, interpretative, and creative essays that address national, comparative, and transnational efforts to improve the conditions of paid domestic work, with particular attention to changing patterns of resistance and action. We are looking for both case studies and broad theoretical and interpretative work from all periods and places, including ancient societies, colonial contexts, under slavery and industrialization, and in different political and economic systems, including Communism, post-colonialism, and Neo-liberalism that address individual and collective strategies of resistance and forms of organizing. In this way, we can historicize current formations: ethnic associations, unions, worker centers, coalitional politics, and social movements.

Authors might ask: how do rural versus urban settings influence organizing? In what ways did the rise of wage labor and industrialization influence worker resistance? How do work settings with a single employee compare to settings with a large staff of workers? In what ways has government action, law, and social policy facilitate or discourage worker movements? To what degree has the labor process, degree of worker specialization, demands by employers, and basic expectations about the work shape worker perceptions of their labor? How have abuses on the job—physical, sexual or emotional—shape the ability to resist? And how do patterns of migration contribute to either worker isolation or formation of associations by domestics? How do external interests—employer organizations, civic groups, benevolent associations, religious societies and institutions, or moral reformers–prompt workers into action?
Possible themes for articles related to resistance, mobilization, and organization include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of allies, support networks, and patterns of political mobilization
  • Spatial politics and geography, including regional, local and transnational migration
  • Domestic work as embodied labor, which includes employers’ demands for dress, hygiene, and specific kinds of bodies
  • Domestic work as relational and emotional labor
  • The Law and legal strategies for change
  • Domestic space and the household as a site of labor
  • Occupational health and welfare as sites of struggle
  • Cultures of service and servitude
  • The labor of social reproduction and ideologies of the gender division of labor
  • Ideologies of home and family, care work, love and money
  • The othering and construction of workers as different based on race, culture, class, ethnicity, and nationality.
  • Connections between child labor, human trafficking and/or forms of unfree labor with domestic work

Prospective authors should submit a letter, an abstract of no more than 500 words, and a two-page cv. Editors will determine whether the proposed work fits thematically in the theme issue. The deadline for abstracts is May 15, 2014. The deadline for first drafts of articles is November 15, 2014. The issue will go for copyediting May 15, 2015. Style and submission guidelines will be sent to authors whose work the editors wish to review. Send correspondence to:

Eileen Boris, Department of Feminist Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Premilla Nadasen, Department of History
Barnard College