In this chapter, I will analyse he complex history of master-servant relationships and domestic hierarchies. After briefly overviewing research on domestic service, I will illustrate the representations of the family as a hierarchical community and the laws targeting at shaping it in that way. This multifactorial construction of domestic hierarchies, aiming at subjecting wife, children and servants to the family head, was functional to social order well beyond the walls of single households: there were intimate connections between the domestic sphere and the state. Special attention, therefore, will be given both to the use of domestic service to solve social problems such as vagrancy and to a political theme such as servants’ exclusion from citizenship because of their domestic subordination to a master. However, such construction suffered from internal inconsistencies due, among other things, to the limits of obedience and to the authority that servants somehow might have. These inconsistencies weakened the edifice of patriarchy. The efforts to keep each family member ‘in their place’ did not prevent negotiations and conflicts: families were an arena of struggles among their members, especially masters and servants, often defined as domestic enemies. However, this did not preclude solidarity, affection and love, and they, too, involved servants. While gender and generation were crucial in structuring the patriarchal edifice, they also offered opportunities for sometimes unexpected alliances. Although, according to the law, the male father/husband/master was the family head until recently, the domestic sphere – especially from the nineteenth century – experienced a feminization, both at symbolic and social levels. It was increasingly perceived as a place of, and for, women, and the feminization of domestic staff contributed to this. In turn, such feminization was both cause and consequence of a loss of social recognition of the domestic sphere, where (paradoxically?) patriarchy survived longer and democratization arrived later than in the ‘public’ sphere

"Constructing and challenging dependence: Masters and servants"

Raffaella Sarti
2020-01-01

Abstract

In this chapter, I will analyse he complex history of master-servant relationships and domestic hierarchies. After briefly overviewing research on domestic service, I will illustrate the representations of the family as a hierarchical community and the laws targeting at shaping it in that way. This multifactorial construction of domestic hierarchies, aiming at subjecting wife, children and servants to the family head, was functional to social order well beyond the walls of single households: there were intimate connections between the domestic sphere and the state. Special attention, therefore, will be given both to the use of domestic service to solve social problems such as vagrancy and to a political theme such as servants’ exclusion from citizenship because of their domestic subordination to a master. However, such construction suffered from internal inconsistencies due, among other things, to the limits of obedience and to the authority that servants somehow might have. These inconsistencies weakened the edifice of patriarchy. The efforts to keep each family member ‘in their place’ did not prevent negotiations and conflicts: families were an arena of struggles among their members, especially masters and servants, often defined as domestic enemies. However, this did not preclude solidarity, affection and love, and they, too, involved servants. While gender and generation were crucial in structuring the patriarchal edifice, they also offered opportunities for sometimes unexpected alliances. Although, according to the law, the male father/husband/master was the family head until recently, the domestic sphere – especially from the nineteenth century – experienced a feminization, both at symbolic and social levels. It was increasingly perceived as a place of, and for, women, and the feminization of domestic staff contributed to this. In turn, such feminization was both cause and consequence of a loss of social recognition of the domestic sphere, where (paradoxically?) patriarchy survived longer and democratization arrived later than in the ‘public’ sphere
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11576/2681827
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