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A Law of One’s Own: Newfound Labor Rights, Household Workers' Agency, and Activist Praxis in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Baiocchi, María Lis (2020) A Law of One’s Own: Newfound Labor Rights, Household Workers' Agency, and Activist Praxis in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Taking Argentina as a case study, in this dissertation I examine the impacts on the ground of the ratification of the landmark Convention 189 (C189) of the International Labor Organization Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. C189 translates in the Argentine context into National Law 26844, which since 2013 guarantees equal labor rights for household workers. Based on ethnographic research in Buenos Aires' Metropolitan Area conducted between 2016 and 2018, I look at the ways in which household workers and household workers’ rights’ activists manage the transition from primarily customary to increasingly contractual modes of regulation of paid household work. I address how workers and activists navigate the challenges inherent in the equalization of rights in a context of entrenched, intersectional, structural inequalities. I also look at how workers and activists traverse the contradictions inherent in having public rights recognized for household workers in the private setting of the household.

The main finding in this dissertation is that the challenges activists face in promoting equal rights for household workers and the trials workers endure in becoming subjects with rights in daily life reveal difficulties inherent in the reconfiguration of the public/private divide when such heritage has been foundational and structuring of systems of law and policy. The experiences of activists and workers highlight the inequalities that have historically depoliticized and feminized the private sphere in contrast to the androcentric public sphere of employment and politics, which point to the foundational limits in the structure of a state that remains gendered, classed, and racialized in particular ways. These limits continue to be prevalent, and activists and workers must often work around them in advancing and accessing, respectively, full labor rights in everyday life. This entails, on the part of activists and workers, using inventive modes of advancement of and access to labor rights that promote and enable household workers’ agency without disrupting the symbolic hierarchies of class, gender, ethnicity, race, and nationality extant between workers and their employers and thus without posing a threat to workers’ lives and livelihoods.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Baiocchi, María Lisbaiocchiml@pitt.edumab3860000-0002-6839-8305
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairHayden, Robert
Committee CoChairMusante, Kathleen
Committee MemberLukacs, Gabriella
Committee MemberBrush, Lisa
Date: 16 January 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 November 2019
Approval Date: 16 January 2020
Submission Date: 6 December 2019
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 248
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Argentina, domestic work, household employees, migrant women, labor law, women's NGOs
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2020 16:36
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2022 06:15

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