Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Susan Borker


domestic service, ethnographic interview, housework, intersectionality of class and gender, reflexibility, relationality

Subject Categories



This study is an ethnographic analysis of the relationship between female employers and female domestics in the Philippines focusing on how it maintains and reproduces the intersecting class and gender relations of power that brought the two women together. It also explores relationality - how the privileging of one group of women is related to the exploitation of another.

Data for analysis was based on interviews with 25 female employer-female domestic dyads in a city in the Philippines in 1989. The questions for the semi-structured interviews were focused on four major research questions:1.) What kinds of female employer-female domestic relationship exist between the women in this city?; 2.) What makes one female employer-female domestic relationship similar to and different from another?; 3.) What is unique about the Philippine case in terms this employer-employee relationship?; and 4.) How is the intersectionality of class and gender relations articulated in the female employer-female domestic relationship?

The analysis reveals the existence of 4 types of female employer-female domestic relationships. The dynamics of dependency, fictive kinship, proprietarity, and deference are expressed in somewhat different ways. But in all case these ways indicate an asymmetric power relationship. The analysis suggests that these employers and domestics exhibit some level of agency, empowerment and solidarity in their daily interactions. However these are undermined by intersecting forces of class and gender relations in Philippine society. In particular "compandrazgo", a system of patronage well-entrenched in Philippines society since the Spanish era, inhibits empowerment among domestics and female solidarity across class lines.


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