Home Institution

Occidental College

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


This research analyses the multiple forms of violence that Afro-Brasilian domestic workers in Salvador, Bahia face in their profession, and how the origin of this aggression is rooted in slavery, a colonial tool of oppression. This study also serves to highlight how domestic workers are empowering themselves to change this unjust situation. In order to research this dynamic, I worked with Sindoméstico, a domestic workers union in Salvador.

Through my research, I concluded that the disturbing mentalities of superiority and the false hierarchical binaries that came forth from slavery still exist in modern-day Salvador in the relationship between employer and domestic worker. Employers exploit the labour of domestic workers while subjecting them to physical, sexual, moral, and social violence. In this research paper I will demonstrate how Sindoméstico clearly serves as a manifestation of empowerment. The union was established by domestic workers and continues to be managed by domestic workers. It not only empowers domestic workers by providing them with information about their worker and human rights and assisting them in numerous legal services – such as establishing a work contract and taking cases to court – but the union battles the negative conceptions of domestic work in Brasilian society. Thus, in this study I assert that the oppressive tactics of slavery have carried over into the present day field of domestic work, and the movement for domestic workers rights is changing this reality.


Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change


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