Abstract

This article examines representations of domestic workers in Brazilian “common sense,” in the Gramscian use of the term. It argues that the dominant trope of maids' bodies as “dirty,” and yet the “most suitable” to carry out the job of cleaning, is produced at the intersection of three major components of Brazilian cultural politics: the pervasive authoritarianism that is directed mainly at the poor; the contempt for manual labor and the constant ridicule of manual workers' alleged inferiority; and the repulsion for the black body, frequently portrayed as hyper-resistant and infra-human. These components, in turn, are deeply permeated by Brazilian conceptions of blackness, whiteness, masculinity, femininity, and higher- and lower-class identities, and their interconnections with notions of cleanliness and filth. The article thus looks at common-sense representations of domestic workers' dark-skinned female bodies as sites where race, gender, and class asymmetries meet and sustain one another.

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