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Madams and maids in Southern Africa: coping with uncertainties, and the art of mutual zombification

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Nyamnjoh, Francis B.

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Abstract Drawing largely on a just completed empirical study this paper argues that like elsewhere in Africa & the world, maids in South Africa & Botswana, notably migrant maids from Zimbabwe, are subjected to the vicissitudes of ultra-exploitation. They, like their employers are all concerned with the uncertainties that plague their lives. Although employers are assumed to be in positions of power, their reality is often more nuanced & prone to constant negotiations with & concessions to maids. At one level, their own preoccupation with avoiding uncertainties by maintaining whatever advantages they can cultivate implies that vis-a-vis their maids, the employers cannot always afford to enjoy the benefits of being in control. Structural inequalities notwithstanding, mutual zombification seems to be the order of the day between maids & madams.
Keywords Southern Africa; Botswana; girl; domestic; working conditions; woman; employer; migrant; social relations
Classification General Sociology, Basic Research, General Concepts and History of Sociology, Sociological Theories; Migration, Sociology of Migration; Women's Studies, Feminist Studies, Gender Studies
Free Keywords South Africa; Domestics; Work Environment; Females; Employers; Migrants
Publication Year 2005
Page/Pages p. 181-196
Journal Afrika Spectrum, 40 (2005) 2
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works