Female immigration and the ambivalence of dirty care work: Caribbean nurses in imperial Britain

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It is a generally accepted view that immigrants, especially women, often are relegated to performing the denigrated dirty care work that the local population refuses to do. Studies of Caribbean women who trained and worked as nurses in the post-Second World War British hospitals thus have emphasized that they were especially saddled with tasks involving unclean substances reflective of their racialized, low-status position as immigrants in Britain. Drawing on Bakhtin’s analysis of dirt, this article argues that the categorization of immigrants’ work as particularly dirty refers not only to their position as marginalized, discriminated outsiders. It also represents both a tacit recognition of their essential contribution to the regeneration of the receiving society and an attempt to control the transgressive potential inherent in this contribution by debasing their work. Immigrants therefore are branded as doing dirty work, because they represent a transformative force that is both needed and feared.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)44-62
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - migration, nursing, dirt, excretions, hierarchy, Caribbean, neo-colonialism, Britain, race, gender

ID: 174495438