Accepted paper:

"My life does not change ! My house does not change". Care of the house, self-worth, and expectations of the future in a Rio de Janeiro favela »


Benoît de L' Estoile (CNRS, Ecole normale supérieure PSL)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on the changes over twenty five years in the ways a woman living in a Rio de Janeiro favela talks about her house, her life, and the houses in which she and her mother have been working as a domestic.

Paper long abstract:

In the context of a discussion about « worthy life », Vânia, a woman living in a Rio de Janeiro favela, ironically states that her house is still the one I had known back in 1994. While at the time she expressed her hope that one day her house would be better, she now says : « either I eat, either I decorate my house ». This contrasts with the changes in the houses of her neighbours, who have considerably expanded horizontally and above all vertically in 25 years, as most houses in Rio's favelas. Brazilian donas de casa (mistresses of the house) usually put their pride in taking care of their house, seen as an image of the moral worth of the person. Vânia's case provides a puzzling counter-example.

Vânia's relationship to her house makes sense when placed in a « specific configuration of houses » : her own, the one of her mother, who is also a domestic worker, and the the houses in which she and her mother have been working as a domestic, and been fed since her childhood in a rural part of Brazil. This is based on a a long term ethnographic relationship with various families in a favela of the Northern Zone of Rio de Janeiro.

panel P126
Styles of domestic life: austerity and self-worth