Publication details

(Ne)viditeľné mestá, (ne)viditeľné migrantky : Au pair v globálnom meste

Title in English (In)visible Cities, (in)visible migrants : Au pair in a Global City


Year of publication 2017
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description In this paper I draw on ethnographic field research on experience of Slovak au pairs working in London in 2004 and 2005. I will discuss how participant observation with specific focus on material culture enables us to grasp experiences of migrants situated outside formal labour market. I will start with Saskia Sassen (2003) and her argument that economic processes situated in global cities both create demand for paid domestic workers and render both themselves and their work invisible. After showing how immigration rules and labour law make both au pairs and their work invisible, I will move into materiality of host households, focusing on (in)visibility of au pairs, their work and agency there. I will continue revealing how au pairs respond to exploitation and misrecognition of either their work or personalities in host households. In particular, I will look at their strategies related to materiality of household, revealing how au pairs accentuate their relationship to the host families through food consumption and usage of their rooms. Then I will argue that au pairs’ work and awkward relationship with the host family results into au pairs’ orientation to social relationships outside of host families’ households and affects also the ways how they experience city. In particular, au pairs do not socialise much with their hosts but tend to spend the time with other Czech and Slovak migrants. Furthermore, the rhythm of domestic work bounds au pairs mainly to suburbia and peripheral quarters of London where they work.
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