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Centre of African Studies: Events


Domestic Labour in Africa, 1900-2015: Housework, Commodification and Mother Africa

Domestic Labour in Africa, 1900-2015: Housework, Commodification and Mother Africa
Speaker: Deborah Bryceson # University of Oxford and University of Edinburgh
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Date and Time
12th Oct 2016 16:00 - 12th Oct 2016 17:30
Seminar rooms 1 & 2, Chrystal Macmillan Building

Throughout African history, domestic labour time, directed at meeting the basic consumption needs of family members, dwarfs any other labour time allocation. Yet, it has received scant historical documentation because of its diffuse home-based nature and the repetitive work of daily basic need provisioning. Domestic labour is conventionally conflated with ‘women’s work’. Piecing together a historical narrative of the changing nature of domestic labour since 1900 reveals a number of striking differences, defying the assumption of housework as timeless. In this seminar presentation, non-market-mediated domestic labour is contrasted with extended family exchange or paid domestic service. Tracing domestic labour’s evolution involves thinking about the content of domestic labour performance, the household division of labour, and how unmonetized family-based domestic labour and paid domestic service is affected by the general expansion of labour commodification in African economies through time. ‘Mother Africa’ and all the arduous domestic labour associated with that term are being re-evaluated by women and girls. Various ways and means of avoiding drudgerous labour are being devised, many with paradoxical trade-offs.

Edinburgh Students