Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity, and Class in India

By Raka Ray; Seemin Qayum | Go to book overview

7 Traveling Cultures of Servitude

ROHAN, AYESHA, KEYA, and other young globalized Indians we have met in the preceding chapters embody a changing culture of servitude. It is recognizably Kolkata's culture of servitude in that relationships between employers and servants continue to manifest a normalized domination, dependency, and inequality, but these employers enact servant keeping differently—often deliberately so—from the way their parents did. Yet as globalized Indians, adherents of the project of modernity, they nonetheless live in the spatial and social formation in which they were born; hence, the continuity in the culture of servitude may not be particularly surprising. But what of those young Indians who grew up within one particular culture of servitude but have been transplanted into another? How do first-generation Indian immigrants with the economic capacity to hire paid domestic workers enact the employerservant relationship in New York or London or Singapore? In other words, does Kolkata's culture of servitude travel, or is it peculiar to Kolkata? These queries help to reveal the elements of a culture of servitude that are specific to the labor relation itself and those that are specific to the historical spaces in which the labor is performed. We thus turn in this penultimate chapter to an examination of the lived experience of the relations of domestic servitude by Indians who grew up in Kolkata and now live in New York City. At the same time we compare them to local practices of New Yorkers against the backdrop of the emerging or reemerging culture of servitude in twenty-first-century New York.

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Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity, and Class in India
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: Approaching Servitude in Kolkata 1
  • 2: Colonial Legacies and Spatial Transformations 32
  • 3: Between Family Retainer and Freelancer 65
  • 4: Disquieting Transitions 92
  • 5: The Failure of Patriarchy 119
  • 6: The Cultivation and Cleavage of Distinction 145
  • 7: Traveling Cultures of Servitude 167
  • 8: Conclusion 188
  • Notes 201
  • Glossary 229
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 249
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