Inheriting Domestic Workers: A Study of Norm Transmission among Expatriates in India
Based on an empirical study of Danish expatriates, this article explores how the social representations of domestic work are transmitted, shared, and negotiated in the expatriate community in Delhi. Domestic work belongs to the informal economy in India, which is largely unregulated. Expatriates often inherit domestic workers directly from each other, copying and re-constructing their predecessor’s contracts. What is also passed on, along with the workers and their contracts, are social representations and norms linked to being an expatriate employer in India. These social representations and norms are central for the newcomers’ ability to navigate the unfamiliar and difficult situation of managing domestic staff. Furthermore, the inheritance and sharing of social norms may protect the expatriate community from major changes and critiques. Thus, although the individual expatriate is only in India for a limited time, core structures of the work relationship and employment standards are continued and re-created by the ever present—but constantly changing—group of expatriates.