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Care for Sale

An Ethnography of Latin American Domestic and Sex Workers in London

Ana P. Gutiérrez Garza

Publication Date - 01 November 2018

ISBN: 9780190840655

224 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

An intimate ethnography of migrant care work in London


In homes and brothels around the world, migrant women are selling a unique commodity: care. Care for Sale is an in-depth ethnography of a group of middle-class women from Latin America who exchange care and intimacy for money while working as domestic and sex workers in London. Illuminating the complexities of care work, the book offers a detailed study of women's lives and working conditions. It considers how their experience of migration and intimate labor is one of rupture that both enables and forces them to gradually reconstitute themselves, in their host cities, as people quite distinct from their "normal" selves back home.

Care for Sale illustrates the connections and the factors that contribute to migrant women choosing either domestic or sex work, including their concerns about money and morality. It moves away from a narrow focus on migration and labor to focus instead on the creation and (re)creation of persons; and on the ways in which people fashion themselves and cultivate difference, inequality, or commonality as part of their self-making projects. By doing this, the book shows migrants not only as economic actors, but also as individuals involved in an intimate process that constantly modifies their sense of morality and personhood.

Care for Sale is a volume in the series ISSUES OF GLOBALIZATION: CASE STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY ANTHROPOLOGY, which examines the experiences of individual communities in our contemporary world. Each volume offers a brief and engaging exploration of a particular issue arising from globalization and its cultural, political, and economic effects on certain peoples or groups.

About the Author(s)

Ana P. Gutiérrez Garza studied her PhD at the London School of Economics where she worked as a Teaching Fellow and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology. She currently works as a Departmental Lecturer at the Anthropology Department in Oxford University.


"Care for Sale is an exceptionally well-balanced investigation of undocumented women. I find myself thinking about some of the people introduced in the work as if I've actually known them, rather than merely reading about them. We are given a sympathetic--yet realistic--view into the complex choices, realigned trajectories, heartbreaks, and rationalizations that these women are engaged in."--Jack M. Schultz, Concordia University Irvine

"Care for Sale examines the labor migration of Latin American domestic and sex workers in London. It offers a unique angle by discussing their middle-class status prior to migration and their consequent loss of status upon migrating. The text offers rich materials that benefit from the deep research Gutiérrez Garza conducted with this particular migrant community."--Rhacel Parreñas, University of Southern California

"This ethnography is compelling and sophisticated, and the theorization is clear and accessible. It brings together many of the key ideas presented in anthropology classes, combining the topics of race, class, and gender in a compelling context."--Livia K. Stone, Illinois State University

"Care for Sale offers a timely, in-depth study of the complex, fluid, layered status of the 'migrant.' Gutiérrez Garza successfully uses ethnography, participant observation, in-depth interviews, and supplemental scholarly material to highlight how the process of becoming a migrant falls along a continuum, rather than a bifurcated either/or category or legal status. She weaves theory into rich case-study material in order to highlight the particular challenges facing a category of 'middle-class' migrants (many of whom are undocumented) who distinguish themselves from what they refer to as 'the real illegals,' those who have had to undertake more arduous and risky migration routes."--Mary Lorena Kenny, Eastern Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

    List of Characters

    Introduction: Care for Sale
    Why Do Dislocations Matter?
    Selling Care in Neoliberal Times
    Latin American Migrants in London
    Middle Class Dislocations
    The Intersection with Race
    Understanding Middle Class
    Selling Care
    Ethics of Care
    Overview of the Book
    A Note on Methods


    CHAPTER 1: "Why Did I Come to London?" Narrating the Migrant Self
    Narratives of Debt and Inequality
    Indebted Aspirations
    Obligation Versus Escape
    New Beginnings
    New Adventures

    CHAPTER 2: Becoming an "Illegal" Person
    The Journey Towards "Illegality"
    Learning "Illegality"
    Clandestine Occupations
    Narratives of Everyday Anxiety
    The Long Way to Legality


    CHAPTER 3: Domestic Work and the Commodification of Care
    Degrading Contradictions
    Freelancers: Freedom Versus Alienation
    "I Am No Maid; Call Me Housekeeper/Nanny"
    Moralities at Work

    CHAPTER 4: Managing Intimacies in Sex Work
    From Domestic to Sex Work
    For Money and Adventure
    Secrets and Stigma
    The Work in Sex Work
    Risky Business
    Sex as Emotional Labor and Intimacy
    Dilemmas of Care


    CHAPTER 5: The Intimacy of the Gift
    Gifts, Regular Clients, and Sugar Daddies
    Bargaining with Gifts
    Differentiating Gifts
    The Sweetness of Cash
    The Emotional World of Second-Hand Gifts
    "Because You Are Part of the Family"
    Gifts or Charity

    CHAPTER 6: Utopian Selves: "Who We Really Are"
    Remembering and Imagining a "Normal" Home
    Making a Caring Home
    Relocating the "Real Self" Through Idioms of Distinction
    Locating the Normal Through Sociality

    The Future
    The Hope of Documents
    Returning Home
    Still Hoping


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