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Small and big resistances in domesticities

Petites et grandes résistances dans les domesticités

Revue « L'Homme et la Société »

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Published on Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Dans le cadre d'un dossier de la revue L'Homme et la Société, intitulé « Petites et grandes résistances dans les domesticités », un appel à articles pluridisciplinaire est lancé pour les chercheur·e·s des sciences humaines et sociales qui souhaitent apporter leur contribution à une réflexion portant sur les façons dont les travailleuses et travailleurs domestiques résistent au travail et font valoir leurs causes et leurs droits. Il vise à varier les contextes et les échelles d'analyse pour comprendre les origines, les processus et les modalités de résistances et de mobilisations improbables de travailleurs pris dans une relation de service subalterne et asymétrique, qui réduit a priori leurs moyens de contester, aussi bien individuellement que collectivement. 



The literature on domesticities often emphasizes the mechanisms of subordination and structural domination that characterize service relationships between domestic workers and their employers (Destremau & Lautier, 2002, Borgeaud& Lautier 2011; Glenn, 1992). Indeed, the private sphere into which this work occurs (Dussuet, 2004), as well as the hierarchical relationships of race, class and sex that are established between those who serve and those who are served (Glenn, 2010), imply asymmetrical power relations and can lead to an internalization of the position of dominance, leading to a quasi-adjustment of subjective expectations to objective positions (Bourdieu, 1980). They are exacerbated by the huge social and economic distance between employees and employers, in a global context of multiplication of new and very wealthy elites (Cousin, Khan & Mears, 2018) who hire domestic workers (Delpierre, 2019; Le Renard, 2019). In domesticities, the service relationship is based on a « moral economy » (Thompson, 1971) that normalizes the subordination of the employee to the employer. The mechanisms of oppression and subordination have been highlighted by the literature on domesticities, which has particularly focused on the study of "global servants" (Parrenas, 2001; Hochschild, 2003) migrating from the "South" to the "North". Without denying the importance of this work and the approaches they develop; we regret they portray a homogeneous and often miserable picture of domestic workers.

However, insisting on the oppression and subordinate status of these employees does not prevent us from looking at acts of resistance in domesticities. The « moral economy » of the domestic service relationship itself invites us to "consider domination without assuming the unconditional internalization of consent" (Siméant, 2010). Several studies have shown different forms of contestation and "dissent" (Siméant, 2013) at work in various contexts (Avril, 2009; Boris & Klein, 2012; Le petitcorps, 2013; Nadasen, 2015). The aim of this call for papers is to complete this work, and to question the norms that govern domesticity, on the margins of traditional wage labor, by insisting on the diversity of these forms of resistance: individual forms and daily micro-resistance to work, collective actions and political mobilizations, or even publicizations of the living and working conditions of domestic employees. By bringing together a diversity of empirical cases, by paying attention to the contexts in which they are situated (Avril & Cartier, 2019), and through their systematic comparison, we aim to highlight both the heterogeneity and the common modalities to the "arts of resistance" (Scott, 1990) and the process of empowerment.

Paper submissions will focus on the three following main areas of study, which invite to vary the scales of analysis:

Axis 1: The first axis proposes to grasp the individual and daily, non-institutional forms of resistance to work, which are established in the interactions between employers and employees, in other words: to make an anthropology of resistance and hidden discourses challenging the « moral economy » of the classic relationship of domesticity. These individual forms include attempts to negotiate working conditions, hidden strategies outside the official order (Hobsbawm, 1969), such as non-compliance with working hours, appropriation of prohibited home spaces (Pande, 2012), or recourse to law and justice (Laforge, 2005). The proposals that fall within this axis are invited to highlight the different forms and modalities of (micro) resistance that cross the service relationship.  

Axis 2: The second axis questions open and collective conflicts and the ways they are historically constructed. The aim is to study how the collective movements of domestic workers emerge, outside or within different types of local institutions and organizations (Alsheltawy, 2018) as well as the mechanisms that have enabled them to be put on the agenda in national and international governmental bodies (Schwenken, 2011; Vasselin, 2002; Vidal, 2007). In particular, we may wonder about the conditions of possibility of these so-called improbable mobilizations led by those who hold jobs and status at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, having few resources to contest (Avril, 2009; Le Petitcorps, 2018).

Axis 3: Finally, the third axis invites us to think about the narrative of these resistances in literary production dealing with domestic relationships. From the fantasy of the "good" vicious or even criminal "good" that runs through certain old or contemporary literary fictions (Genêt, 1947; Slimani, 2016), or cinematographic fictions, to the testimonies of employers and employees on their experiences of these relationships, it is a invitation to think about the ways in which these relationships are imagined, constructed and publicized: among employers, the fear of the disruption of the established order and of vengeance ; among employees, writing as an act of denunciation (Lecher, 2016).

The authors of the texts are invited, in a transversal way, to insist on the socio-biographical effects (Filleule, 2001) of these various mobilizations and resistances on the trajectories and the different spheres (family, conjugal) of life of the employees (Alsheltway, 2019). The corpus selected will vary the fields, geographical contexts, and forms of domesticities, so as to catch their common features while insisting on the plurality of resistances, occurring in different national histories.


Proposals (1 page) should be sent to the two coordinators of the corpus by the 30th of August 2019

to the following two addresses:

The authors of the selected proposals will send their full papers by the 1st of April 2020, for a publication in spring 2021.

Though the abstract may be written in English, as well as the paper submitted for peer review, the final article will be published in French. The translation from English to French falls to each author.


Alsheltawy Ranime. « Le mouvement des travailleuses domestiques en Égypte : entre ONG locales et ressources globales », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, vol. 223, no. 3, 2018, pp. 44-57.

Alsheltawy Ranime. « L’organisation des travailleuses domestiques dans le sillage de la révolution égyptienne », Ethnologie française, vol. 174, no. 2, 2019, pp. 323-337.

Avril Christelle. « Une mobilisation collective dans l'aide à domicile à la lumière des pratiques et des relations de travail », Politix, vol. 86, no. 2, 2009, pp. 97-118.

Avril Christelle, Cartier Marie. « Care, genre et migration. Pour une sociologie contextualisée des travailleuses domestiques dans la mondialisation », Genèses, vol. 114, no. 1, 2019, pp. 134-152.

Borgeaud-Garciandía Natacha, Lautier Bruno. « La personnalisation de la relation de domination au travail : les ouvrières des maquilas et les employées domestiques en Amérique latine », Actuel Marx, vol. 49, no. 1, 2011, pp. 104-120.

Boris Eileen, Klein Jennifer, Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Bourdieu Pierre. Le Sens pratique, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1980.

Cousin Bruno, Khan Shamus, Mears Ashley. “Theoretical and methodological pathways for research on elites”, Socio-Economic Review, vol.16, no.2, 2018, pp.225–249.

Delpierre Alizée. « De la bonne au majordome. Contrôle des corps et relations entre les sexes dans la domesticité élitaire », à paraître en 2019 dans Sociologie du travail.

Destremau Blandine, Lautier Bruno. « Introduction : Femmes en domesticité. Les domestiques du Sud, au Nord et au Sud », Tiers-Monde, tome 43, n°170, 2002, pp. 249-264.

Dussuet Annie.« Le genre de l’emploi de proximité »,Lien social et politiques,vol.47, 2002, pp.143-154.

Fillieule Olivier.  « Propositions pour une analyse processuelle de l'engagement individuel », Revue française de science politique, 51ᵉ année, n°1-2, 2001. pp. 199-215.

Glenn Evelyn Nakano. « From Servitude to Service Work: Historical Continuities in the Racial Division of Paid Reproductive Labor», Signs, vol. 18, no. 1, 1992, pp. 1–43.

Genet Jean. Les Bonnes, Paris, Folio, 1947.

Glenn Evelyn Nakano. Forced to Care: Coercion and Caregiving in America.Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2010.

Hobsbawm Eric J.,Bandits, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969.

Hochschild Arlie R. (dir.). The Commercialization of Intimate Life. Notes from Home and Work. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2003.

Laforge Géraldine, « Le statut d’emploi des intervenant(e)s à domicile dans le champ de l’aide et des services aux personnes : quelques réflexions sur une politique du “gisement d’emplois” », Revue de droit sanitaire et social, no.2, 2005.

Lecher Lydia. Bienvenue chez les riches, Paris, Michel Lafon, 2016.

Le Petitcorps Colette. « Actrices de leur histoire migratoire : Les récits de femmes mauriciennes employées de maison en France », Migrations Société, vol. 145, no. 1, 2013, pp. 49-62

Le Petitcorps Colette. « Le service domestique comme rapport social. Subjectivités au travail, emplois à domicile et migrations féminines en France », Recherches féministes, vol. 31, no 2, 2018, pp. 197-214.

Le Renard Amélie. Le privilège occidental. Travail, intimité et hiérarchies postcoloniales à Dubaï.  Paris, Les Presses de Sciences Po, 2019.

Nadasen Premilla. Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women who Built a Movement. Boston, BeaconPress, 2015.

Pande Amrita. «From “Balcony Talk” and “Practical Prayers” to Illegal Collectives: Migrant Domestic Workers and Meso-Level Resistances in Lebanon», Gender & Society, vol. 26, no. 3, 2012, pp. 382-405.

Parreñas Rhacel Salazar. Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration, and Domestic Work. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 2001. 

Schwenken Helen. « Mobilisation des travailleuses domestiques migrantes : de la cuisine à l'Organisation internationale du travail », Cahiers du Genre, vol. 51, no. 2, 2011, pp. 113-133.

Scott James. Domination and the arts of resistance: hidden transcripts.Yale, Yale University Press,1990.

Siméant Johanna. « Économie morale » et protestation – détours africains », Genèses, 2010, vol. 4, no.81, pp. 142-160.

Siméant Johanna. « Protester / mobiliser / ne pas consentir. Sur quelques avatars de la sociologie des mobilisations appliquée au continent africain », Revue internationale de politique comparée, 2013, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 125-143.

Slimani Leila. Chanson douce, Paris, Gallimard, 2016.

Thompson Edward P. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century”, Past & Present”, no. 50, 1971, pp. 76–136. 

Vasselin Karine. « 3. Faire le ménage : de la condition domestique à la revendication d'une professionnalité », Françoise Piotet éd., La révolution des métiers. Presses Universitaires de France, 2002, pp. 77-98.

Vidal Dominique. Les bonnes de Rio. Emploi domestique et société démocratique au Brésil. Villeneuve d'Ascq, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2007.


  • Saturday, August 31, 2019


  • résistance, mobilisation, travail domestique, domesticités, relation de service


  • Alizée Delpierre
    courriel : alizee [dot] delpierre [at] sciencespo [dot] fr
  • Ranime Alsheltawy
    courriel : ranime [dot] alsheltawy [at] dauphine [dot] psl [dot] eu

Information source

  • Alizée Delpierre
    courriel : alizee [dot] delpierre [at] sciencespo [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

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