Feminising domestic service
in Home economics
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This chapter explores how gender and age shaped domestic service practices in Lusaka, and how these dynamics shifted over time. It outlines how specific gendered and racialised models of domestic service developed under colonial rule in Lusaka and other southern African cities. In African households, domestic service practices were grounded in the gendered and gerontocratic hierarchies of kinship and marriage, and primarily involved women and girls’ labour. In the households of White settlers and colonial officials, by contrast, the majority of domestic workers were African men and boys. The male dominance of domestic service in White households declined over time in some colonial contexts but persisted in Northern Rhodesia. This dominance was eroded following Zambian independence because of growing demand for female domestic workers, particularly from Black employers, and growing supply of women and girls’ labour. The chapter reveals how these dual processes led to the feminisation of domestic service in Lusaka, and Zambia more broadly, a process which involved the reorganisation of work along gendered lines, with female workers coming to dominate indoor roles involving cleaning and childcare, and male workers moving into outdoor roles as gardeners and guards. The chapter relates the feminisation of domestic service in Lusaka to broader regional developments and shows that, across southern Africa, domestic service was unevenly but unmistakably transformed into a predominantly female occupation during the twentieth century.

Home economics

Domestic service and gender in urban southern Africa

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