The mealtimes that bind? Filipina au pairs in Danish families – Københavns Universitet

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16. oktober 2015

The mealtimes that bind? Filipina au pairs in Danish families

Since 2000, more than 17,000 young Filipinas have received temporary residence in Denmark as au pairs. Officially, au pair placement is a cultural exchange program; however, it is also a domestic work arrangement where au pairs conduct domestic labor in return for food, lodging and allowance. The au pair is expected to live as part of a host family, who in turn should offer a protective space for the young foreigner. Nevertheless, au pairs and hosts often find this challenging. Focusing on mealtimes, this article examines how culturally diverse practices of family relations influence au pairs' participation in their host families. The study employs anthropological perspectives on kinship to explore the forms of closeness and distance that govern au pair–host relations, leading to a discussion about how au pairs and hosts approach themes such as hierarchy, independence and family inclusion in different ways. This adds to the ambiguous positions au pairs are offered as they are to involve themselves in gendered tasks that ‘makes the family’, while they also are expected to liberate themselves from the host family sociality. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among au pairs and hosts in Denmark, as well as with the au pairs' families in the Philippines, the article suggests that studies of migrant domestic workers should embrace family practices in the receiving as well as the sending society when attempting to merge the themes of family and work relations.

Karina Märcher Dalgas: "The mealtimes that bind? Filipina au pairs in Danish families"; Gender Place and Culture; 2015