The main aim of this thesis is to be able to fill a research gap with regard to women and their survival strategies with emphasis on refugee women, mostly from the Hom of Africa, who have fled to Cairo during the 1990s. The presence of refugee women in the domestic labor sector in Egypt is a relatively recent phenomenon. Cairo, as a large urban setting in the developing world, provides an interesting site where all of these distinct actors play the same role and share at least two structural factors: being migrant women and domestics. The basic argument of this study is that refugee women domestic workers not only play a major role in the maintenance and survival of their households during the displacement, but that they, more than any other members of the refugee community and by virtue of their jobs, have the most intimate interactions with the members of their host society. Worldwide, a typical domestic worker is a woman, migrant and usually from a distinct ethnic background. The study emphasizes theoretical debates on domestic work, highlights its specifities as a particular form of labor process. The most important of these specifities is the personalization of the relations between the employer and the employee. Furthermore, from a gender perspective, this particular nature of "intimate" relations resulting from domestic work highlights the need to break the category of women. The theoretical discourses show that the patriarchal system of work dynamics perpetuated where women leave the home to work, and hire new women to take over the traditional roles and responsibilities of "women's work." Refugees, however, challenge this patriarchal system due to the nature of their displacement as well as the job market in Cairo. The thesis suggests that further research on this topic will expectedly aid in the understanding that refugees, as part of the transit global world, and that migrant women domestic workers are not merely a product of the miserable situations in their local countries, instead they are interacting, affecting and affected in a broader global process


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Arts in Sociology-Anthropology

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Helen Rizzo

Committee Member 1

Helen Rizo

Committee Member 2

Cynthia Nelson

Committee Member 3

Ralph Sell

Document Type



125 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Women refugees

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Women household employees

Library of Congress Subject Heading 3

Foucault, Michel


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Call Number

Thesis 2003/90