1st Edition

Domestic Democracy At Home in South Africa

By Jennifer Fish Copyright 2006
    296 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    296 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This study examines the dialectic relationship between social inequality and change in the newly democratic South Africa through the lens of paid domestic labor. The complexities of this institution provide an in-depth analysis of the tension between the race and gender priorities of South Africa's new democracy and the lived realities of the majority of its population. Because paid domestic work remains the largest sector of employment for women in South Africa, it is critical to situating the scope of social change in this emergent democracy. This book presents the first comprehensive study of paid domestic labor since South Africa's 1994 post-apartheid transition. Drawing upon 85 interviews with domestic workers, employers, Parliamentarians, community activists and organizational leaders, this research offers diverse perspectives on the race, class and gender divides that remain integral to social relations in the context of national transition. In contrast, this study also details women's collective agency through the exploration of a critical social policy change shaped by the activism of a new union of domestic workers. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork, this book demonstrates that transformation of social relations remains one of the greatest obstacles to engendering democracy in South Africa.

    Chapter One. South Africa in Transition
    Chapter Two. The Household as a Political Space
    Chapter Three. Weaving Content, Context and Self: The Methodological Journey
    Chapter Four. Resisted Transitions: The Social Landscape of Domestic Work
    Chapter Five. Intersections at Play: Complexities of Gender Location
    Chapter Six. Women Won't Be Free Until Domestic Workers are Free!
    Chapter Seven. Bringing Democracy Home


    As a professor of sociology and Chair of Women's Studies at Warren Wilson College, her teaching and research interests are centered in gender, globalization, social inequality and feminist methodology. For the past ten years, her work has focused on gender and human rights in South Africa's national transformation.

    "Jennifer Fish’s work captures the nuances of two decades of research on paid domestic labor and places the South African experience in the global context…. This study makes an important contribution to research on caregiving, intersectionality, inequality, and social change. It is an excellent choice for graduate and upper-division undergraduate courses."

    Mary Romero, Gender & Society