Domestic relations in Brazil: legacies and horizons

Pinho, Patricia de Santana and Silva, Elizabeth B. (2010). Domestic relations in Brazil: legacies and horizons. Latin American Research Review, 45(2) pp. 90–113.




Grounded in literature review and an ethnographic study, this article examines contemporary Brazilian domestic life. Relations among women (employers and maids) and between women and men are analyzed with a focus on the home as a space where gender, race, and class inequalities are constantly produced. It argues that what happens in domestic life is constitutive of wider social divisions and that the domestic is a universe integral to the national social context. A case in point is the connection between the widespread use of paid domestic labor and the naturalization of black women as subservient, complementing the pairing of whiteness and class entitlement. Another case is the buffering role maids have for the development of gender conflicts in well-off homes, blur ring gender hierarchies at a wider scale. Locating the domestic within the recent discussion on global domestic labor, the article compares particularities of Brazilian domestic life to elsewhere.

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