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Placement agencies for care-domestic labour: everyday mediation, regimes of punishment, civilizing missions and training in globalized India

Grover, Shalini (2022) Placement agencies for care-domestic labour: everyday mediation, regimes of punishment, civilizing missions and training in globalized India. Modern Asian Studies, 56 (6). 1901 - 1929. ISSN 0026-749X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0026749X21000585


Survey data on Indian labour points to a rapid expansion of the care-domestic economy, currently the main employment avenue for urban women. Hitherto, studies on domestic service portray the unequal class structures of master–servant relationships and the escalating phenomenon of live-out and part-time hired help. This article shifts the focus to under-researched, yet increasingly visible, placement agencies, which regulate care-domestic markets and provide diverse services, from specialized ‘patient care’ to the training of subaltern communities. The article discusses how these service providers denote prominent shifts in skill sets, intra-household care arrangements, forms of medical assistance, and new (and old) mechanisms of authority. The ethnography expands our knowledge of everyday mediations around hiring and training between agencies, employers, and care-domestic workers in New Delhi. The article puts forward innovative conceptualizations of service provider approaches through juxtaposing the informal practices of local (or Indian) agencies with formalized and ‘civilizing’ agendas developed by Euro-American intermediaries. The formal–informal dichotomized framework of service provider relationships adds to critical scholarship that contrived dualisms which need historical scaffolding and nuanced engagement. I argue that, while informal and formal approaches appear markedly different for the care-domestic economy, they also overlap. Significantly, both approaches are unjustly weighted against the workers who lack the potential to democratize labour relations. Local agencies reinforce exploitative care-domestic relationships, while Euro-American intermediaries, who espouse modern values, formalization, and civilizing experiments, promulgate punitive regimes and stigmatized futures for their Indian subjects.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2021 10:33
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 21:09

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