From Servants to Workers: South African Domestic Workers and the Democratic State by Shireen AllyFrom Servants to Workers: South African Domestic Workers and the Democratic State by Shireen Ally

From Servants to Workers: South African Domestic Workers and the Democratic State

byShireen Ally

Paperback | December 4, 2009

Pricing and Purchase Info

$34.65 online 
$38.50 list price save 10%
Earn 173 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of women from poorer countries have braved treacherous journeys to richer countries to work as poorly paid domestic workers. Scholars and activists denounce compromised forms of citizenship that expose these women to at times shocking exploitation and abuse.

In From Servants to Workers, Shireen Ally asks whether the low wages and poor working conditions so characteristic of migrant domestic work can truly be resolved by means of the extension of citizenship rights. Following South Africa's "miraculous" transition to democracy, more than a million poor black women who had endured a despotic organization of paid domestic work under apartheid became the beneficiaries of one of the world's most impressive and extensive efforts to formalize and modernize paid domestic work through state regulation. Instead of undergoing a dramatic transformation, servitude relations stubbornly resisted change. Ally locates an explanation for this in the tension between the forms of power deployed by the state in its efforts to protect workers, on the one hand, and the forms of power workers recover through the intimate nature of their work, on the other.

Listening attentively to workers' own narrations of their entry into democratic citizenship-rights, Ally explores the political implications of paid domestic work as an intimate form of labor. From Servants to Workers integrates sociological insights with the often-heartbreaking life histories of female domestic workers in South Africa and provides rich detail of the streets, homes, and churches of Johannesburg where these women work, live, and socialize.

Title:From Servants to Workers: South African Domestic Workers and the Democratic StateFormat:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.24 inPublished:December 4, 2009Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801475872

ISBN - 13:9780801475870

Look for similar items by category:


Editorial Reviews

"Despite a new racial and political regime, black domestic workers remain a living legacy of apartheid in contemporary South African life. In this beautifully written exploration of domestic workers in a post-apartheid democratic South Africa, Shireen Ally deftly brings to the fore the limits of state discourses of rights for these workers despite their being the beneficiaries of one of the best domestic worker legislations in the world. In an analysis that is moving, subtle, and insightful, Ally reveals the peculiarities of this particular occupation where workers learn to juggle the complex intimacy of the relationship with their employers with a newly learned language of rights. In so doing, she deepens our knowledge of this form of intimate labor."—Raka Ray, Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies, Professor, Sociology and SSEAS, and Chair, Center for South Asia Studies, University of California, Berkeley