Domestic Economies

Women, Work, and the American Dream in Los Angeles

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: November 2017

American Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Domestic Economies, Susanna Rosenbaum examines how two groups of women—Mexican and Central American domestic workers and the predominantly white, middle-class women who employ them—seek to achieve the "American Dream." By juxtaposing their understandings and experiences, she illustrates how immigrant and native-born women strive to reach that ideal, how each group is indispensable to the other's quest, and what a vital role reproductive labor plays in this pursuit. Through in-depth ethnographic research with these women at work, at home, and in the urban spaces of Los Angeles, Rosenbaum positions domestic service as an intimate relationship that reveals two versions of female personhood. Throughout, Rosenbaum underscores the extent to which the ideology of the American Dream is racialized and gendered, exposing how the struggle for personal worth and social recognition is shaped at the intersection of motherhood and paid employment.


"One strength of Rosenbaum’s research design is its reliance not only on interviews but also on settings for observation: a middle-class mothers’ group, a domestic workers’ co-op, and an organization advocating for domestic workers’ rights." — Debra Osnowitz, Gender & Society

"Domestic Economies provides a novel angle for examining domestic work through its focus on the identities of those who hire and do domestic work, rather than on employer-employee relations, as do most other studies." — Rhacel Salazar Parren˜as, International Migration Review

"This is a beautifully written book, recommended for scholars of gender and work, immigration, and family." — Kristin Marsh, American Ethnologist

"This important, nuanced and highly readable ethnography will be important reading for scholars and students interested in the globalisation of care and the intersections of migration, belonging, class, race and gender. I would also recommend it to general readers who want to learn more about the critical contributions of immigrant workers to contemporary everyday life, not only in America but across the world." — Megha Amrith, Anthropological Forum

"This book will have value for those interested in issues surrounding the American middle class, migration, reproductive labor, and, perhaps most of all, the tensions and contradictions inherent in the American Dream." — Irina Kretser, PoLAR

"In this beautifully written ethnography of immigrant Latina domestic workers and their employers in Los Angeles, Susanna Rosenbaum not only juxtaposes employee-employer stories but also links them together through their struggles as mothers. The detailed ethnographic descriptions are masterfully done, bringing these women together in a way that has not been accomplished before. Domestic Economies makes an important, innovative, and unique contribution to the growing literature on domestic service by incorporating motherhood, immigrant struggles, and a critique of the 'American Dream' ideology." — Mary Romero, author of The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

“Susanna Rosenbaum’s engaging work is filled with profound insights into the shared but nonetheless divergent struggles of Latina domestic workers and their employers. Taking domestic service as an entry point for understanding how the two groups of women are bound to each other in their pursuit of the American Dream, Rosenbaum’s beautifully written ethnography lends itself nicely to undergraduate courses in women and gender studies, the sociology and anthropology of work and migration, and Latino and ethnic studies.” — Elana Zilberg, author of Space of Detention: The Making of a Transnational Gang Crisis between Los Angeles and San Salvador


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Susanna Rosenbaum is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the City College of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
1. Producing In/Visibility in Los Angeles  27
2. Middle-Class Dreaming and the Limits of "Americanness"  49
3. Making Mothers Count  83
4. Organizing, Motherhood, and the Meanings of (Domestic) Work  115
5. Dreaming American  148
Conclusion  177
Notes   185
References  205
Index  225
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7002-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6997-4
Publicity material