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Stereotypes and Ambivalence: the construction of domestic workers in Vancouver, British Columbia

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ABSTRACT This article examines stereotypes of Filipina and British nannies presented by nanny agents in Vancouver, Canada in a series of interviews conducted in 1994, and then considers the influence of these stereotypes in structuring the work conditions of each group of domestic worker. Working with Bhabha's concept of ambivalence and Kaplan's ideas about the 'impossibility' of the concept, 'mother', the agent interviews are then reread for signs of inconsistency and ambivalence. The British nanny is portrayed as both superior in terms of training and temperament, but cold and controlling. The Filipina nanny is both uncivilised and poorly motivated, and well-educated. These ambivalences are read in terms of anxieties about maternal substitution, colonial pasts, racial difference, and working mothers. Some implications of the inconsistency in agents' portrayals of Filipina nannies for political practice are briefly outlined.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 1997

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