Gender and domestic work in India

Lauren Wilks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


With a long and unbroken history of personalised service, and where structures of caste and class continue to shape everyday household relations, India offers an ideal site in which to explore the dynamics of paid domestic labour. Drawing together key historical, sociological and anthropological literature, I explore the historic and continuing significance of paid domestic work in India – where some 4.75 million people (mostly women) work as personal cooks, carers and ‘maids’. I begin with a more general discussion about paid domestic labour and the terminology used by scholars, before turning to the more specific literature on India. In turn, I address the dynamics and legacy of colonialism, and the relationship between (paid) domestic work, gender, caste, class, ethnicity and religion. I also review some recent ethnographic research, which has highlighted the changing landscape of domestic work in India; and, finally, I offer some suggestions for possible future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Gender in Asia
EditorsShirlena Huang, Kanchana N. Ruwanpura
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781788112918
ISBN (Print)9781788112901
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2020

Publication series

NameInternational Handbooks on Gender series
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.


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