The Reconfiguration of Settler Colonialism through Indigenous Domestic Work, 1970-2015

Raquel Pacheco, University of California, Santa Barbara

The 1970’s brought greater international pressure on so-called developing countries such as Mexico to curb their population growth and to incorporate women into the development project. These two metrics of modernization became interlinked in Mexico when incorporating women into development was defined in terms of women’s mass entrance into waged labor, a process that was thought to naturally discourage high birth rates. In this regard, indigenous women were read as obstinately fertile and anti-modern. At the same time, domestic work, a critical resource that was to facilitate the entrance of some women into paid labor, underwent a flexibilization through reforms made to the 1970 Federal Labor Law. As similar labor reforms were enacted in the direction of flexibilization, neoliberal austerity policies in the 1980’s further eroded the social security benefits including childcare and healthcare on which women relied, exacerbating their reliance on private care. Rural women, in turn, saw their peasant agricultural livelihoods devasted by the adoption of NAFTA, with their aspirational horizons increasingly pointing to the new opportunities emerging along the free trade zones on the US-Mexico border. These various processes helped commodify and devalue women’s labor in the name of modernization, development, and individual survival, while at the same time reinforced inequality between urban and rural populations. I examine how this inequality is suggestive of a broader reconfiguration of Mexican settler colonialism into a post-agrarian economy in which indigenous peasants, including women, are expected to take up domestic work in areas such as the Metropolitan Area of Monterrey on the US-Mexico border.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 125. Immigration Policy, Household Workers, and the Politics of Reproductive Labor