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06 | Beyond Domesticity. Shifting Sites of Women's Labour in Modern India

Combining historical and anthropological methodologies, the panel explores transformations of women’s labor in modern India (19th-21st centuries). It looks at paid and unpaid labor, explores sites of women’s labor, and the ways in which women negotiate employment, care-work, and family life.


· Jana Tschurenev Humboldt University Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
· Nikolay Kamenov Graduate Institute Geneva (Geneva, Switzerland)
· Supurna Banerjee Institute for Development Studies Kolkata (Kolkata, India)


· 07/27 | 09:00-10:30 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/27 | 11:00-12:30 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/28 | 09:00-10:30 UTC+2/CEST

Long Abstract

From the 1970s, feminist scholars emphasized the relevance of housewives’ ‘invisible’ domestic labor for social reproduction. More recent studies showed that households are also sites of paid domestic labor, and recipients remunerated services by outsiders. Already in the 19th century, teaching, nursing, and medicine emerged as fields of women’s professionalism. Women constituted an important part of the emerging industrial labor force. The panel builds on three research fields to explore the changes and complexities of women’s labor in India: first, labor history, and the emerging historiography of domestic servants; second, feminist studies of gender and domesticity; and third, studies of labor migration in the context of economic change. We aim to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange between historical, anthropological, and sociological approaches, and to bridge the gap between gender studies and labor studies.

The panel links social and economic change, industrial transformation, and the emergence of new household forms. It looks at the ways in which women negotiate paid and unpaid labor, affect and intimacy, and move between different sites of labor. Through the lens of social reproduction, it seeks to promote a complex understanding of women’s labor beyond domesticity and draw attention to the multiple ways in which labor was and is organized and (not) remunerated in modern India. Covering different temporalities and regions, the panel promotes a broad view on women’s labor, which includes, but is not limited to: • Paid and unpaid domestic labor • Household-external wage labor • Professional care work • Self-employed labor • Volunteer labor