Questioning intimacy : Muslim 'Madams' and their maids.
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Relationships between „madams‟ and „maids‟ have been the subject of various South African works, detailing the lives of domestic workers and their daily struggles. This study however aims to turn the focus on the madam and questions the complex intimacy at work between her and her maid. It is this intricate association between „madam‟ and „maid,‟ as well as the context of the home, which creates a site for a unique personal relationship that extends beyond the constraints of the working contract. In order to investigate this relationship, I explore the preconceived notions Muslim madams of North Beach have when recruiting the ideal domestic worker as well as the way everyday life between madams and maids shapes their relationship. In demonstrating the types of relationships and levels of intimacy between them, this thesis focuses on three aspects of everyday life between Muslim madams and maid. Firstly, I explore the „home‟ as a contradictory location – being both a private space for the employer and a workspace for the maid, paying particular attention to the creation of boundaries and negotiations of space within the home. The second key aspect I examine is the extent to which religion influences the relationship between madam and maid. Religion is a thread running through this thesis as a determining factor in the recruitment of a domestic worker and a way in which space is produced. Thirdly, I discuss the sharing of gender between madam and maid and the question of „sisterhood‟ between them. These are underlying elements of the types of relationships between madam and maid which, I argue are characterised by levels of cultivated intimacy. The project is based on the qualitative results gathered from 20 in-depth interviews with Muslim madams, two focus groups and five key informant interviews with domestic workers. My thesis contributes to the existing research exploring the relationships between madams and maids and opens further avenues for research. It demonstrates that there are key elements besides race and class that shape the relationships between madam and maid, which contribute to levels of cultivated intimacy between them.