Call for Contributions: “Petites et grandes résistances dans les domesticités” – L’Homme et la Société

Small and Big Resistances in Domesticities

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.