Cleaning Houses to Make Homes: An ethnography of Brazilian domestic workers in North London

  • Ana Paula Silva

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis sheds light on what it is like to be a female Brazilian migrant domestic worker in London. I argue that for Brazilian women from a poorer background the reason for migration, while it is ostensibly to make money, is fundamentally to achieve personal and familial stability, the chance of a better life and, therefore, transformation. Based mainly on participant observation, life history and documentary film-making, this ethnography tells the story of a group of Brazilian women who were determined to make a living, or stabilise their lives, in a new place. They were pursuing moral and material projects against the odds, as part of their life as women who moved from different and sometimes remote corners of Brazil to clean and care for families that are not their own, in north London. However, these intentions were often complicated by the initial difficulties of the process of moving to greater stability, both practical and emotional. Crucial to this process is the impact of the recent political history of Brazil and the long history of the racialised Brazilian class system, in terms of both ideology and practice, on the women’s subjectivity, even in London. By drawing on the experiences of Brazilian migrant women, this thesis contributes to studies on class in Brazil and domestic work more generally. More specifically, I ask how Brazilian people from different class backgrounds perceive their lives in London, and how their class background influences their experiences and opportunities in London.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAngela De Souza Torresan (Supervisor) & Gillian Evans (Supervisor)

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