Lecture: Olimpia Capitano: Domestic workers’ (im)mobility. A case study, 29.05.2024, Vienna and virtual space

Vortrag der Reihe „WISO-Morgenkolloquium“ des Inst. für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte der Univ. Wien (PDF)

Time: Mi., 29.05.2024, 9.00-10.00 Uhr
Venue: Univ. Wien, Seminarraum WISO 1, Stiege 6, 2. ZG – and virtual space

Olimpia Capitano’s research project is a case study concerning the experience of Cape Verdean, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Filipino paid domestic workers in Rome between 1970 and 1989. She decided to focus on these immigration groups because they were the protagonists of the first and largest flows to Italy and to Rome. Capitano chose the 1970s and 1980s because they preceded the great wave of migration in the early 1990s – moving the periodization forward would have implied also considering the flows that followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall. She interrogated the domestic environment as a place of paid work and as a frontier space.
Capitano’s reference sources are mainly oral sources (about ninety interviews). However, she also used many types of other sources from archives. The research is situated within a broad literature of historical and gender studies and aims to deconstruct the rigid division between the separate spheres of public and private. To do so, Capitano took the perspective of paid domestic work, which is particularly effective in showing how the intimate spaces of the home, the local, the national and the global interact and construct each other. Capitano started from studies on the formation and development of a global market for domestic and care work and sought to re-discuss them through the theoretical and methodological propositions of labor history and global labor history, especially the WORCK network (Web) and the groups “Intersecting marginalities” and “Sites and fields of coercion”.
This initial research setting was conceived both in relation to a reasoning about new ways of thinking and doing (domestic) labor history and as a response to the persistent non-recognition of domestic work as “real” work. A dense net of labor and social power relations that unite the domestic space and what lies outside of it emerged. These relationships are often ambiguous and traversed by a wide and nuanced spectrum of coercive dynamics (and strategies for responding to them).
So, the central (and concatenated) questions are: how do the public and private concretely interact and how can we observe their continuous exchange and deconstruct the separate spheres? If we take the perspective of paid domestic work and consider the separate spheres as historical products and expressions of hierarchical and power relations, how is coercion articulated in these social and labor relations? Are spaces of autonomy buildable by subjects in positions of subalternity? And does this dialectic between coercion and autonomy take shape inside, outside, at the boundary or in the relationship between these spaces? What role does (im)mobility play within this geography? And what role do gender, class, and race play in shaping and transforming these same power relations? How is power itself reproduced?
Here Olimpia Capitano will focus on one such issue, namely the relationship between mobility and immobilization in domestic labor relations. She will try to show how female migrant workers have found themselves immobilized in extremely coercive relational dynamics, concealed in the private spaces of the home, partly due to public action. Several laws and circulars have helped exacerbate the abusive conditions experienced by female workers, anchoring them by law to their employers perpetuation of hierarchical stereotypes about plants, humans, and non-human animals.

Moderation: Kirsten Wandschneider

Zoom-Link für die Veranstaltung:
Meeting-ID: 636 4310 7815 | Kenncode: 603862