Journal of Romance Studies

‘It is very difficult to like and to love, but not to be respected or valued’

Maids and nannies in contemporary Brazilian documentary

Journal of Romance Studies (2018), 18, (2), 275–299.

Abstract

This article interrogates two contemporary documentaries that explore the roles and experiences of domestic and childcare workers in Brazilian society: Consuelo Lins’s Babás (2010) and Gabriel Mascaro’s Doméstica (2012). In order to examine their formal differences, the analysis draws on Ismail Xavier’s typology of Brazilian documentary (2009) and Catherine Russell’s discussion of experimental ethnographic films (1999). Both Lins’s and Mascaro’s documentaries indicate the ways that colonial slave-owning relationships continue to weigh uncannily on modern-day domestic labour arrangements. They show how attempting to confine maids to ‘depoliticized’ home-spaces is a tactic used to deny them autonomy, and political and labour rights. However, while Babás attempts to redress the marginalization of nannies within hegemonic narratives of Brazilian cultural memory, it occasionally risks othering the figures to whom it pays homage. By contrast, Doméstica’s experimental ethnographic practice and haptic, affective images actively foreground the violent domestic relationships upon which bourgeois home-spaces are constructed.

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Randall, Rachel