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Fifty shades of white

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Abstract

This research article reflects on social inequalities in Europe in a transnational perspective, focusing on racial hierarchies between Westerners and ‘peripherally white’ migrants from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Peripheral whiteness is a concept introduced to account for the simultaneous privilege and subordination experienced by white migrants from non-Western countries. Peripheral whiteness is here examined on the example of migrant domestic workers from Ukraine employed in Poland and their Polish counterparts active in private households in Belgium. The contribution shows that, compared to their non-white counterparts, peripherally white domestic workers from CEE benefit from being racialised as white. This privilege is, however, inextricable from the subalternity of their status. The fact that the majority of domestic workers in Brussels are Polish and an increasing number of domestic workers in Warsaw come from Ukraine can be partially explained by the worker-employer hierarchy implicitly established by the (semi-)peripheral status of their countries of origin.
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Keywords: Belgium; Poland; Ukraine; care; domestic services; domestic work; ethnicity; migration; race; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • Het Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies is het forum voor de wetenschappelijke problematisering van sekse in relatie tot andere vormen van discriminatie en uitsluiting zoals etniciteit, seksualiteit, klasse of leeftijd. Er worden artikelen in gepubliceerd over gendervraagstukken vanuit alle relevante disciplines die een wetenschappelijke bijdrage leveren aan debatten over gender en intersectionaliteit in Nederland en Vlaanderen. Het tijdschrift is een interdisciplinair medium op het kruispunt van maatschappij-, cultuur-, geestes-, gezondheids- en natuurwetenschappen. Het verschijnt vier keer per jaar en biedt wetenschappelijke artikelen en daarnaast ook interviews, boekrecensies, discussiedossiers en opiniërende artikelen in het Nederlands en Engels. Artikelen worden dubbelblind beoordeeld door externe deskundigen.

    The Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies (Journal of Gender Studies) is a Dutch language forum for the scientific problematisation of gender in relation to ethnicity, sexuality, class, and age. The journal aims to contribute to debates about gender and diversity in the Netherlands and Flanders. The journal is an interdisciplinary medium operating at the intersection of society, culture, the humanities, health and science. The editorial staff is open to articles about gender issues from different disciplines, and also accepts English articles. As well as publishing articles, the journal includes essays, columns (short topical and polemical articles), interviews, reviews, summaries of dissertations and conference reports. Articles are subjected to a double blind peer review process.
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