Document Type

Honors Project

Abstract

Today Senegalese women are claiming new spaces within society. Among the middle and upper class more and more women are gaining access to education and entry into the formal economy. At the same time, women of poor and rural origin are also redefining the opportunities available to them, opting to migrate and pick up paid domestic work in the city where it is increasingly abandoned by urban women. This paper examines a basic change in women’s membership in Senegalese society through their participation in what has historically been deemed women’s work - domestic labor. While for centuries domestic work in Senegal has been assigned on a division of gender, today it is increasingly delegated between women on a distinction of socioeconomic class. I argue that the domestic work is a relationship through which women of all sectors of society are negotiating, subverting, and redefining structures that have been imposed upon them since colonization This is as much true for the woman that opts out of domestic work as it is for the migrant woman she employs, who seeks an alternative to the possibilities available to her on the rural scale by seeking wage labor in the city. The actions of both women come to reconfigure the urban landscape, rewriting the power structure on which it has been built and creating new forms of hierarchy between women that have otherwise shared subordinate identities. This ethnography consults the household--a space over which women alone have presided for centuries--to observe how power is challenged and claimed within shared constraints.

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