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Negotiating Citizenship: The case of foreign domestic workers in Canada

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This paper argues that most conceptualizations of citizenship limit the purview of the discourse to static categories. 'Citizenship' is commonly seen as an ideal type, presuming a largely legal relationship between an inidividual and a single nationstate - more precisely only one type of nation-state, the advanced capitalist postwar model. Alternatively, we suggest a re-conceptualization of citizenship as a negotiated relationship, one which is subject therefore to change, and acted upon collectively within social, political and economic relations of conflict. This dynamic process of negotiation takes place within a context which is shaped by gendered, racial and class structures and ideologies; it also involves international hierarchies among states. Citizenship is therefore negotiated on global as well as national levels. This conceptualization is demonstrated by way of identifying one particular set of experiences of negotiated citizenship, involving foreign domestic workers in Canada. As non-citizens originating from Third World conditions, this is a case involving women of colour workers, highly prone to abusive conditions, and under the direction of employers who are more affluent First World citizens and predominantly white women. Original survey data based on interviews with Caribbean and Filipino domestic workers in Canada are used to demonstrate the varied, creative and effective strategies of two distinctive groups of non-citizens as they attempt to negotiate citizenship rights in restrictive national and international conditions.


Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: 1998-11-01

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