(Self) representations of domestic workers : race and gender politics in Brazil



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On April 16, 2012, the much awaited primetime telenovela appropriately titled Cheias de Charme premiered on Rede Globo, the largest Brazilian television network, and viewers across the nation were introduced to as três Marias, the three charming protagonists who, in a rare occurrence on the network, are domestic workers. It is no surprise that domestic workers should be of interest to Brazilian television viewers; paid domestic work is an enormous part of daily life in Brazil and domestic workers make up nearly eight percent of the work force. This project builds on previous explorations of the unique relationships between domestic employers and employees in Brazil, as well as examinations of the traditional ways in which domestic workers have been imagined to draw a clearer image of the changing role of paid domestic work in Brazilian society. Part ethnographic study and part media analysis, this study is mainly preoccupied with exploring various representations of domestic workers. These representations speak to the tensions and contradictions surrounding the social dynamics of the intimate relationships between domestic workers and their employers, as well as the role of domestic work in Brazilian society, haunted by the legacy of nearly four-hundred years of slavery.