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Title: Women and paid domestic work in Mexico : food, sexuality and motherhood
Author: Saldana-Tejeda, Abril
ISNI:       0000 0004 2719 1214
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis explores women in paid domestic work in Mexico. The thesis draws on qualitative interviewing and observation involving the participation of women domestic workers and women who employ domestic workers. The thesis argues that racial difference in Mexico has been disguised for centuries by the myth of mestizaje (the notion of racial and cultural mixture) and racial homogenisation. The study of paid domestic work in Mexico makes visible the exclusionary discourses and practices that maintain the low status of this occupation by virtue of women's gender, class and race. The institutionalised discrimination of domestic workers in Mexico is explained by their proximity to the middle class and therefore the perceived threat of bodily transgressions. Through the study of food, sexuality and motherhood this thesis demonstrates that, in the context of mestizaje, women in paid domestic work are imagined as 'not so Other'. The thesis looks into the racial history of food in Mexico and the parallels between human and culinary mestizaje. It argues that food distinctions in Mexico are still a powerful mechanism to mark class, gender and racial difference. This work demonstrates that both human and culinary mestizaje have never been neutral constructions and involved a silent but powerful hierarchy of imagined racial origins. Food and sexuality are said to be deeply linked, as both experiences manifest bodily boundaries and are perceived as necessary for social reproduction. This thesis looks at the sexualisation of paid domestic work in Mexico. It argues that women in this occupation are sexualised since their proximity to the middle class informs concerns over workers' ambiguous place within an order of social classifications. The sexualisation of workers manifests not an individual fantasy but rather a collective one where female employers, the state, the media and education are also involved. The thesis looks at women's experiences around motherhood. It argues that paid domestic work constrains workers' right both to become and to be mothers and enables female employers to follow middle class notions of 'cool' mothering. It looks at the role of the state in reproducing discourses that define working class women as unfit for childrearing and argues that this idea works to maintain the low status of this occupation while disempowering women workers, their families and communities. The thesis concludes that paid domestic work in Mexico is a living manifestation of racial difference in Mexico and of colonial forms of social organisation. Discrimination against women workers is often perpetrated in virtue of an imagined racial difference constituted in and through gender and class hierarchies. The racialisation of paid domestic workers in Mexico has persisted through notions of mestizaje and 'true' Mexicanness that have for centuries conditioned a national sense of belonging through the denial of race and racism.
Supervisor: Fagan, Colette; Byrne, Bridget Sponsor: CONACYT
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available