• 12 September 2013 - 15 September 2013
  • Linz
  • Venue:
    Römerstraße 98
    4020 Linz, Austria

    Needs registration!
    Download registration form here.

    Further information: http://www.ith.or.at

    Contact: ith@doew.at

  • 49. ITH-Conference
  • Towards a Global History of Domestic Workers and Caregivers

  • This year's conference of the International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH) focuses on the global history of domestic workers in private homes, a labour market that over time has included, in addition to physical labour, care for infants, children, and the elderly (“emotional labour”).

    Work done outside of homes in (small) business or caregiving institutions (hospitals, old people’s nursing homes) will be the topic of a later conference. Domestic work, now usually designated as “domestic and caregiving” work, has also been assigned to men in the racializations that (colonial but also postcolonial) societies imposed on men of colours-of-skin other than white. Work in households other than one’s own is not only a global phenomenon with area-specific variations and regimes, it is also one with a history extending over centuries and changing over the ages, e.g. the shift extended families – nuclear families – dual-income families. Migration of women to such service positions is not as new as some observers claim. Nevertheless, the social sciences have failed to develop analyses with both long-term historical and global perspectives. The recent ILO Convention “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” (2011) is the first international agreement in which domestic workers had a voice.

    In the last decade research, esp. feminist research, has increasingly paid attention to the global history of domestic employees (“servants”) and to caregiving in private homes. These workers, the vast majority of whom have been women, have always been especially exposed to employer arbitrariness and have had a particularly weak negotiating position. Their working conditions were and are usually hidden behind the walls of the “private sphere”. Conditions and positions vary depending on societal structures for example between Latin America, China, and Europe. The history of domestic workers is and always has been a history of migration. While the migrant status has often been used to explain the neglect of these women in the history of the labour movement, working in the households of strangers and migration for household labour has, in fact, a far longer history than the industrial labour movement. Research needs to include free and unfree workers, live-in domestics and service personnel with their own accommodation, men and women, adults and children, but not apprentices in workshops that are housed in masters’ homes.

    What are the similarities and differences both between the world’s regions and over time from the early modern to the modern period? What transfers occur? “Towards a Global History of Domestic Workers and Caregivers” in long-term perspective aims at developing an analysis that, by bringing this neglected category of working women and men into focus, will contribute to a new, comprehensive history of labour. Thus this conference expands the traditional history of both the classic labour movement and the history of male and female working-class culture in the productive sphere by incorporating the reproductive sphere – including care for children and the elderly (“emotional labour”). Work regimes range from paid to enslaved household work. The overall goal is an inclusive gendered history of men’s and women’s work in the inextricably entwined spheres of productive and reproductive work.

    Present-day domestic work will form the core of the analyses but a historical approach is indispensable. Presenters from across the globe will help avoid a Eurocentric focus.

    Preparatory Group

    Co-ordinators: Silke Neunsinger (Arbetarrörelsensarkiv och bibliotek, Stockholm), Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam), Dirk Hoerder (Salzburg, Austria).

    Marcel van der Linden (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam), Raquel Varela (Instituto de História Contemporânea, Universidade Nova de Lisboa); for the ITH: Berthold Unfried, Eva Himmelstoss

    Advisory Committee

    Josef Ehmer (Universität Wien), Donna Gabaccia (University of Minnesota, USA), Vasant Kaiwar (Duke University, USA), Amarjit Kaur (University of New England, Armidale, AU), Elizabeth Kuznesof (University of Kansas, USA), Sucheta Mazumdar (Duke University, USA)


Simultaneous Translation: English – German

Thursday, 12 September 2013

9.00 – 22.00        Registration of the participants at Jägermayrhof

17.30                   Aperitif

18.00                   Conference opening by the ITH President, Berthold Unfried, and others


18.15 – 18.45      Shireen Ally, Slavery, Servility, Service: the Cape of Good Hope, the Natal Colony, and the Witwatersrand, 1652-1914 (University of the Witwatersrand)

18.45 – 19.15      Dorothy Sue Cobble, Farewell to the Factory Model: Explaining the Global Upsurge of Domestic Worker Organizing (Rutgers University)

19.15                   Welcome Reception by the Mayor of Linz at Jägermayrhof


Friday, 13 September 2013

8.30 – 9.00          Introduction into the conference by Dirk Hoerder (Salzburg), Silke Neunsinger (Stockholm), Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk (Amsterdam)

Session I: Definitions and Concepts

Chair: Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk

9.00 – 10.15       

§Raffaella Sarti, Historians, Servants and Domestic Workers. Fifty Years of Research on Domestic and Care Work (Università di Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’)

§R. David Goodman, Reconstructing the Ambiguous Historical End of Domestic Slavery in Morocco (Pratt Institute New York)

§Majda Hrzenjak, Slovenian Domestic Workers in Italy: Continuities and Discontinuities within Shifts of Symbolic, Political, Economic and Geographical Borders (Peace Institute – Institute for Contemporary Social and Political Studies, Ljubljana)

10.15 – 10.45      Coffee break

10.45 – 11.15     

§Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Chileanización and La Chinita: Ethnicity, Maternity, and Domestic Service in Popular-Front Chile (University of New Mexico)

§Marta Kindler & Anna Kordasiewicz, A Historical Perspective on Child Care-Workers in Polish Households (University of Warsaw & University of Computer Science and Economics in Olsztyn)

§Magaly Rodriguez Garcia, The League of Nations and its Handling of the ‘mui-tsai’ System (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

11.15 – 12.30      Discussion

12.30 – 14.00      Reception by the Provincial Governor of Upper Austria at Jägermayrhof   

Session II: Changing Division of Labour

Chair: Yvonne Svanström (Stockholm University)

14.00 – 14.50     

§Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Leaving the Employer’s Kitchen for the Drive-Thru Window: African American Women’s Transition from Domestic Laborer to Low-Wage Corporate Employee, 1960-1990, United States (Worcester State University)

§Sabrina Marchetti, Migrant Domestic and Care Work through the Lenses of Postcoloniality. Narratives from Eritrean and Afro-Surinamese Women (RSCAS, European University Institute)

§Christa Matthys, Nannies versus Mothers. Negotiating Perceptions of Motherhood and Childrearing in Aristocratic Households, 1700-1900 (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock)

14.50 – 15.15      Coffee break

15.15 – 16.15     

§Lord Mawuko-Yevugah, Changing Composition of South Africa’s Domestic Workforce and the Reconstitution of ‘Otherness’ (University of the Witwatersrand)

§Seemin Quayum & Raka Ray, Creating Class through Cultures of Servitude (University of California, Berkeley)

§Marina de Regt, Mobile Women, Moving Lives? The Impact of Ethiopian Women’s Migration on Gender Relations, Labour and Lifecycle (Free University Amsterdam)

§Andrew Urban, Settler Colonialism and Colonial Labor Systems: Domestic Service and the Politics of Chinese Restriction in the ‘White Pacific’ (Rutgers University)

16.15 – 18.00      Discussion

18.00                   Dinner at Jägermayrhof


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Session III: Working Conditions

Chair: Shireen Ally (University of the Witwatersrand)

9.00 – 10.05       

§Cecilia Allemandi, Towards an Insight into the Living and Working Conditions of Wet Nurses in the Late 1800s and Early 1900s in the City of Buenos Aires (University of San Andrés, Buenos Aires)

§Dana Cooper, Unintended Imperial Consequences: A Comparative Historical Examination of Irish and Filipina Women’s Migration as Domestic Caregivers within the British and American Empires (Stephen F. Austin State University)

§Walter Gam Ngkwi, House Boys, House Girls and Baby Sitters: The Mobility of Indentured Labour (Domestic Servants) in Cameroon, c.1920s-1990s (University of Buea)

10.05 – 10.30      Coffee Break

10.30 – 11.45     

§Victoria Haskins, ‘The matter of wages does not seem to be material’: State Intervention and Wage Regulation for Indigenous Domestic Workers Under the Outing System in United States, 1890s-1930s (University of New Castle)

§Colleen O'Neill, The ‘Intermountain Girls’ and American Indian ‘Domestic Relocation’ in the Post-War Era (Utah State University)

§Robyn Pariser, Designing Domesticity in Colonial Tanzania, 1919-1961 (Emory University)

§Yukari Takai & Mary Gene de Guzman, Young and Experienced: Transnational Trajectories of Filipina Domestic and Care Workers in the late-Twentieth-Century Toronto (York University)

§Ratna Saptari, Domestic Service and the Experience of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Class and Gender in Two Indonesian Cities (Leiden University)

11.45 – 12.30      Discussion

12.30 – 14.00      Lunch at Jägermayrhof

Session IV: Resistance – Mobilization – Organization

Chair: Lex Herma van Voss (Den Haag)

14.00 – 14.50     

§Traude Bollauf, Dienstmädchen-Emigration (Wien)

§Eileen Boris & Jennifer Fish, Decent Work for Domestics: Feminist Organizing, Worker Empowerment, and the ILO (University of California, Santa Barbara & Old Dominion University)

§Fae Dussart, Domestic Dialogues: Negotiations Over Servant Selfhood (University of Sussex)

14.50 – 15.40     

§Henrique Espada Lima, Wages of Intimacy: Domestic Workers Disputing Wages in Brazilian Higher Court in the XIXth Century (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina)

§Amrita Pande, Clandestine ‘Unions’ and the Counter-Spaces of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon (University of Cape Town)

§Vilhelm Vilhelmson, ‘Lazy and disobedient’. The Everyday Resistance of Indentured Servants in 19th Century Iceland (University of Iceland)

15.40 – 16.10      Discussion

16.10 – 15.30      Coffee break

16.30 – 18.00     

§Silke Neunsinger & Yvonne Svanström, Summary and moderation of the
Concluding Discussion

18.00                   Dinner at Jägermayrhof


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Departure of the participants after breakfast.