“There was much that went unspoken”: maintaining racial hierarchies in South African paid domestic labour through the unsaid

Amy Jo Murray, Kevin Durrheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Domestic labour in South Africa has historically been a site of racial inequality which has continued into the post-apartheid era despite extensive transformation efforts. This article argues that silence presents an avenue for understanding how such racial hierarchy has persisted. We present a qualitative case study of a domestic labour dyad utilising the diary-interview method to analyse the presentation of labour troubles and the perceptions, interpretations, and implications of the unsaid regarding such troubles. Drawing from the data, we demonstrate how intimacy is foregrounded in talk, while domestic labour activities and domestic labour itself go unsaid. We conclude that the intimate nature of domestic labour allows participants to speak about their relationship in ways that make the labour relationship and its racial inequalities become invisible in talk, making it a difficult institution to challenge and change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2623-2640
Number of pages18
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Volume42
Issue number15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Paid domestic labour
  • diary-interview method
  • intimacy
  • post-apartheid South Africa
  • racial hierarchy
  • silence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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