This ethnographic study explored the practice of domestic servitude and the type of relationships afforded to women and girls in this trade in an urban setting in Mali. The Mande belief system does not support the necessity of the domestic servant, yet many families now require the use of one or are in destitute situations and must place their own children into this type of work. While the traditional practices of child fostering and domestic servitude fulfill similar roles in Mali, the contradictions between the fostering system and the modern practice of domestic servitude have become intensified as the relationship between domestic servants and their employers attempt to adhere to traditional Mande beliefs. This study explored the relationship between the servant and her employer as they navigate evolving societal norms while still holding on to their Mande beliefs. This qualitative ethnographic study of 16 women in Mali, found that women who hire domestic servants and girls who are enrolled in school both benefit from this practice; yet, both were at risk of losing their personhood status as they shifted from their traditional female roles into independent selves. Domestic servants who were not enrolled in school had less to gain from this practice and were at an increased risk of losing their personhood. Domestic servants provided opportunities for the working woman to achieve autonomy, assisting the woman in maintaining her personhood status while simultaneously putting the domestic servant in danger of losing her status.
|Commitee:||Frey, Christopher, Gajjala, Radhika|
|School:||Bowling Green State University|
|School Location:||United States -- Ohio|
|Source:||MAI 57/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||African Studies, Womens studies, Education|
|Keywords:||Domestic servants, Mali, Mande, Social networks, West africa|
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