Blofield's Care Work and Class Receives Whaley Book Prize

Associate Professor of Political Science Merike Blofield's Care Work and Class; Domestic Workers’ struggle for Equal Rights in Latin America (Penn State Press, April 2013), is the winner of this year's National Women's Studies Association Sara A. Whaley Book Prize.

Care Work and Class: Domestic Workers' Struggle for Equal Rights in Latin America“As Blofield incisively chronicles, until recently, household servants and nannies, who compose 15 percent of the economically active female population in Latin America, were systematically denied basic labor protections. But in country after country, their advocates have improved their lot by making good use of democratic processes.”

“This book explores a long-neglected topic at the intersection of class and gender inequalities in Latin America: the struggle for equal rights by women employed as domestic workers. Merike Blofield dissects the multiple forms of discrimination and exploitation to which female domestic workers are subjected, and she analyzes their efforts—and those of their political allies—to secure legal reforms that recognize basic rights in Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay. Her study is a major contribution to the scholarly understanding of the politics of inequality in Latin America, and it is an essential starting point for anyone who wants to understand the potential for change in highly unequal class and gender relations.”

Despite constitutions that enshrine equality, until recently every state in Latin America permitted longer working hours (in some cases more than double the hours) and lower benefits for domestic workers than other workers. This has, in effect, subsidized a cheap labor force for middle- and upper-class families and enabled well-to-do women to enter professional labor markets without having to negotiate household and care work with their male partners. While elite resistance to reform has been widespread, during the past fifteen years a handful of countries have instituted equal rights. In Care Work and Class, Merike Blofield examines how domestic workers’ mobilization, strategic alliances, and political windows of opportunity, mostly linked to left-wing executive and legislative allies, can lead to improved rights even in a region as unequal as Latin America. Blofield also examines the conditions that lead to better enforcement of rights.

Merike Blofield is also the editor of The Great Gap: Inequality and the Politics of Redistribution in Latin America (2011) and the author ofThe Politics of Moral Sin: Abortion and Divorce in Spain, Chile and Argentina (2006).

About the Sara A. Whaley Book Prize
Thanks to a generous bequest from Sara A. Whaley, NWSA will offer two $2,000 Sara A. Whaley book awards on the topic of women and labor. This prize honors Sara Whaley, who owned Rush Publishing and was the editor of Women's Studies Abstracts. Each year NWSA will award up to 2 book awards ($2,000 each) for monographs that address women and labor.

September 18, 2013