Domestic workers as political subjects within and beyond work

Development Research Seminar with Alia Amirali
PhD student
Alia Amirali
Tuesday 28 Feb 2023, 16:15 - 17:30
Spoken Language
Aula A
International Institute of Social Studies
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Please contact Eveline Deutman for more information about this seminar.

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Alia Amirali

PhD researcher Alia Amirali explores the political subjectivities of domestic workers in Islamabad.

Drawing on her research subjects' narratives about their lives as domestic workers, as members of their families and communities and about their own selves, Amirali tracks domestic workers' vocabularies and modes of self-fashioning in various oppressive contexts within and beyond 'work'.

Committed to resisting hegemonic discourses (within national and transnational legal and cultural domains and in liberal-humanitarian frameworks) which either render domestic workers invisible or position them as 'illegal migrants', 'helpless victims' or 'unencumbered individuals', she attempts to give an account of her subjects as 'fully human, political beings' in all of their complexity and contradiction, accompanied by a corresponding account of her own 'self' in relation to her subjects. 

Sharing insights from her recently completed ethnographic fieldwork in Pakistan, in this seminar, Alia explores the concept of 'majboori' (translated literally here as 'compulsion' or 'obligation') as used by her interlocutors in a variety of contexts, within and outside the realm of domestic service. In her talk, Alia shows that her interlocutors navigate 'majboori' using a range of strategies which defy binary categorization, arguing that while 'majboori' may be at the heart of many of her subjects' choices, 'majboori' does not foreclose possibilities for resistance, refusal or disruption.


About Alia Amirali

Alia Amirali is a Left political organizer based in Islamabad, Pakistan who has worked closely with formal and informal workers, students, women, slum dwellers and tenant farmers over two decades, in addition to engaging with various civil rights and social justice movements in the country.

She is also a lecturer in Gender Studies at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad and is currently in London doing her PhD in Gender Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

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The Development Research seminars present cutting-edge research on development studies by noted scholars from around the world. The Series aims to stimulate critical discussion about contemporary development issues.

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