chapter  4
54 Pages

Resisted Transitions: The Social Landscape of Domestic Work

The institution of domestic work encapsulates an inherent contradiction in South Africa. The deeply embedded, colonial social relations that normalize the reproduction of privileged households pose sharp contrasts to the human rights focus of democratization. As we examine the household as a central political space-holding the tension of social transition-striking discontinuities between workers' and employers' life experiences repeatedly illustrate how this institution sustains apartheid in everyday life. As my findings reveal, social power, privilege and severe inequality continue to define the nature of domestic work ten years after the transition to democracy. Although participants discussed some examples of change in work relationships at the micro-household level, the dominant structure of the institution entrenches colonial patterns and labor practices that virtually mirror apartheid South Africa. Severe inequalities in social location, privilege and status are reinforced through this normalized social institution which allows a great deal to go unchanged in the new democratic South Africa.