Radikal Readings: Disposable Domestics

Although Grace Chang’s Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy was published in 2000, it is still so relevant to today’s society 16 years later, especially with the rage on debates over “immigration reform.” As Robin D. G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History, UCLA, states in her review:

“Chang exposes the outlandish myth that corporate interests, big agriculture, and liberal Democrats represent enlightened voices standing against mass deportation and xenophobia. Instead she reveals a long history of collusion between the U.S. government, the IMF and World Bank, corporations, and private employers to create and maintain a super-exploited, low-wage, female labor force of caregivers and cleaners. Structural adjustment policies force them to leave home; labor, welfare, and educational policies deny them basic benefits and protections; employers deny them a living wage.”

Chang links immigration policy and “welfare reform” in ways that are not often done – noting how eliminating access to health care, immigration and welfare is directed against female immigrant workers in the U.S. Chang lays bare the political systems that push immigrant women into a certain labor class, which drives the global capitalist structure. She does so without “preaching” as the book heavily centers actual interviews with immigrant women and other women of color.

This book is so informative but it was also deeply personal for me. I couldn’t help but think of my aunt new to the U.S. from Fiji, who left her children to care for others. Or my other aunt who worked as a maid in hotels while her children were left at home. Their struggles to stay afloat while fighting racism and misogyny. It should be required reading for every feminist studies class, politicians, and those in public policy.

Photo by: Radhika Jit/California

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