Universität Erfurt


Tanja Visic: Doktorandin

Universität Erfurt
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Postfach 900221
99105 Erfurt

  • +49(0)361/737-2843
  • +49(0)361/737-2809


Ethnography of Living Arrangements, Informal Work and Transnational Care. Experiences of Domestic Workers from the Former Yugoslavia in Germany

My Ph.D. project concentrates on female transnational labour migration and the providing of care and domestic work as consequence of economic transformation processes and globalization. In particular, the project focuses on informal reproductive labour, which takes place in the private domain of German households and includes care for children and elderly, housekeeping, and other domestic tasks performed by female migrants from the former Yugoslavian countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnian Serb Republic Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro). Based on qualitative ethnographic research, the project will explore the connections between gender and migration looking at gendered subjectivities, migration contexts, and processes of employment with special focus on: 1. Mobility, which becomes a life strategy (and the life style) of female migrants and, potentially, a tool for negotiation of gender order to overcome traditional gender norms; 2. Shifts of the pattern of gender relations in the household of domestic workers; 3. Intersection of three regimes – gender regimes, care regimes, and migration regimes.

Policy debates and migration theories have so far focused on the relationship between migration, reproduction, and the welfare state arguing that migration is a means of obtaining labour power for which the receiving state has not paid the so-called ‘reproductive costs’, especially educational costs. Much less attention has been given to the fact that migrant workers have increasingly become important providers of welfare services both in public and private realms. The sector of domestic services became one of such niches not only in Germany but also in the global division of labour generally. Female migrants who are involved in the grey zone of the domestic sector (taking care of children and elderly, carrying out domestic work, etc.) serve the demands of the middle class by allowing their employers to build their careers freed from certain family responsibilities.

One of the objectives of the research project is to highlight the status of care work as a political concept. It will look into the politics of redistribution, the recognition of informal care work, identifying current trends of social policy and care policy in Germany. It will also ask how the German state relates to migrant informal work in private households, to gender inequalities and care. The doctoral thesis further seeks answers to the following questions: How does the experience of performing domestic and care work influence the change of practices in gender order, ideologies, and values in the female migrant’s lives? How do informal networks intersect with formal elements of the domestic work sector? How do the intersections of gender/sexuality, ‘race’/ethnicity, migration, social class, and national background configure in the employment of migrant workers?

The analysis of material I have gathered so far shows that legality of entry of domestic and care workers in Germany, residence in Germany, and employment do not overlap neatly. Legality in one category does not necessarily entail legality in the other. This perspective in my research opens up new interpretative possibilities in theorizing subjectivities (more precisely, labouring subjectivities) suggesting that gender and mobility/migration are the key sites where conflicts around the changing nature of reproductive labour, social inequalities, and citizenship are materializing.



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