Writing Out Loud: Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity, and Class in India

In this reading, Ray and Qayum examine how employers and domestic workers in India experience their relationship today and how they remember it from the past. After completing the reading, please respond to the following questions.

Theme: Networks of Capital


  1. What are social imaginaries? Ray and Qayum argue that servitude in India today is caught between feudal and modern social imaginaries. What do they mean?
  2. Ray and Qayum argue that employers use the “rhetoric of love” in describing servitude. What do they mean? How does this rhetoric mask inequality and exploitation? Can you think of similar examples of the “rhetoric of love” masking exploitation in your home society (e.g., corporations who refer to employees as “family” or call essential workers “heroes” without providing them healthcare, a living wage, etc.)?
  3. Marx argued that people engaged in wage-labor experience alienation from their labor, its product, other laborers, and themselves. Based on Ray’s and Qayum’s writing, what kinds of alienation do you think that servants experience today in India? How does this experience of alienation differ from servants’ experiences in the past, according to employers and servants themselves? Do you think that servants and employers idealize the past, as the authors argue? Why or why not?
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