December 21, 2023

The ILO is the world's largest venue and platform for labour diplomacy. In this essay, I unpack some of the major problems highlighted by delegates in the 2010-2011 deliberations on the Convention on Domestic Work, and suggest some ways to move forward. Read here

November 13, 2023

I am very happy to be able to attend the conference "The Way Towards Feminist Foreign Policy" in Brussels. Since I will also be attending the EU Congress on Domestic and Home Care, I will be shuttling back and forth between the two events. Looking forward to learn more about this emerging discourse in Europe.

November 7, 2023

I will be in Brussels for a short field visit. Among other commitments, I will be attending the EU Congress on Domestic and Home Care. Looking forward to learning more about new policy innovations in the European social space.

August 22, 2023

I will be at the European International Studies Association's Pan-European Conference on International Relations to be held in Potsdam in September. I will be presenting a paper and a chapter from my book manuscript. 

June 29, 2023

Our panel at the 20th IMISCOE Conference will explore the contradictions between certain kinds work being deemed 'essential' and the precarity of the people performing them.

June 25, 2023

This week I discovered the ILO Archive - which is a separate entity from the Library (and its largely digital archive). It was an absolute pleasure to have gone through some documents, particularly the correspondence between ILO officials and various actors. It was a pity I could only spend a couple of days in there. I'm resolved to return again in the future!

June 5, 2023

This year, the Committee on the Application of Standards will be discussing the 'Achieving Gender Equality at Work' Survey at the International Labour Conference. I am happy to have been given the opportunity to attend and observe the Committee's work this year.

May 24, 2023

I will be participating in the Swiss Network of International Studies (SNIS) Biennial Conference at the University of St. Gallen (June 13-14, 2023). 

March 30, 2023

I will be on fieldwork in Geneva from April to June. I am also happy to be hosted at the Global Governance Centre at IHEID as visiting research fellow.

March 7, 2023

This week I will be doing a 'research pitch' and participating in the JUST International Forum organized by the AISSR/UvA in Amsterdam. 

March 6, 2023

I will be sharing some preliminary insights of my research at the ACMRL.

February 8, 2023

I am currently a visiting researcher at the Amsterdam Centre for Migration and Refugee Law. While in Amsterdam, I will be investigating the social forces which made the Amsterdam 2006 Conference ‘Respect and rights – Protection for domestic workers’ possible, and how these forces may have coalesced to launch the campaign for the ILO Convention on Domestic Work.

February 6, 2023

I will be participating in a fun community outreach with Sumo Science on Friday, February 10.  In this playful encounter with another Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow, Italian high school students will learn more about science and research practice.

January 11, 2023

The presumptions of an endless and boundless supply of domestic labour and the sanctity of the household—are premised on gendered conceptions of the nature of work and the public-private divide. Read more on Social Europe.

January 2, 2023

From January to March this year, I will be a visiting researcher at the Amsterdam Centre for Migration and Refugee Law. While in Amsterdam, I will be investigating the social forces which made the Amsterdam 2006 Conference possible, and how these forces may have coalesced to launch the campaign for the ILO Convention on Domestic Work.

December 5, 2022

Along with a colleague and friend Cecilia Vergnano of KU Leuven, we have submitted a panel to the 20th IMISCOE Annual Conference for next year. Our panel is entitled 'Essential but Excluded: Surviving precarity in essential economic sectors during and after the pandemic.'

November 30, 2022

KnowingDOM's project page is up. For updates, also follow socials:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KnowingDOM 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/knowingdom

October 30, 2022

This week I was able to attend the conference Networks of Labour: International Officers and Social Networks in the History of the International Labour Organization convened by labour historians in Rome.  This was a generative experience and has given me a deeper insight into the history of the organization. In many ways, the issues that concern me about domestic work and the ILO as a site in which knowledge about this category of labour is generated, as well as the social relations that constitute it, are not new.

For example, ideological contestation has always been present in the kinds of programs that were sponsored (i.e. funded) to foster development in the UN system, in which ‘development’ itself is under dispute. For the IPE scholar it is one thing to say that the Chicago School eventually won over Dependistas, but it’s quite another to understand how this has played out in everyday life. Adeline Baskiewiz-Maison’s presentation on the ILO’s first director Albert Thomas, underscores the human, embodied compromise between the ILO as a large institution and the Socialist International. What may begin as competition or outright contestation can eventually develop into collaboration or at least the uptake of new concepts and ideas. Baskiewiz-Maison mentions how socialists came to mobilise the analytical categories of the ILO in their political activities.  In contemporary times, I think of the continued engagement of civil society organizations who have maintained presence and engagement in the annual Global Form on Migration and Development since its inception. In this case, it is a matter of literally being in the same place at the same time, on the same programme if possible, if groups cannot literally be in the same room.

Debates in the ILO as a massive epistemic community were not simply intellectual but had immediate ‘real world’ impacts. And the source of contestation need not even be competing schools of thought – but governments or the public. Oscar Gaspari presented a paper on Mussolini’s government questioning and mocking the work of Italy’s union of statisticians, particularly over the cost-of-living index.  In contemporary times these moments of disruption of scientific work – of disputes over the facticity of knowledge claims (e.g. is Covid real) is even easier with social media.

The ILO is a bureaucracy, yes. But it is also a technocracy. And technical know-how *is* science in action. Before institutions regularize rules and processes, before questions of legitimacy and mandate, there are questions of domains and boundaries. I think of the pilot programs on fair recruitment launched by the ILO in recent years. There are case studies and specific migration corridors selected, as in any social scientific inquiry.  ‘Technical assistance’ is not simply the transfer of know-how, but is also a transfer of values. The solution provided means defining the problem. This process of definition is contextual and specific.  For example, if the solution is the provision of ‘social security’, it would need to deal with kinship systems that may be very different from modern societies’ nuclear family. Or even the fundamental question of who gets to be the ILO’s main subject of concern – what is a worker? Who gets to be a worker? Who or what is the non-worker (e.g. a slave)? Norberto Ferreras’ presentation on Brazil’s slave economy was really insightful.  I realized citizenship is not simply about cultural belonging or political rights.  It is also a technology of labour relations, labour value and the economy. The question of whether (im)migrants are slaves is still incredibly relevant today.

There is the question of the ILO’s ‘permeability’, and whether its tripartite architecture is sufficient to the times. The ILO was of course born of the need of Europe’s industrial core. It was modelled after Europe’s social democracies. One can see the limits of this architecture in the ILO’s activities in countries in which trade unions are banned. The worker as an ontological category, a set of social relations, a historical figure, was a male European working in industry. As ILO official Gianni Rosas mentioned in his opening speech, the vast majority of the world’s workers today are in the informal sector and are not in Europe. And here then is the question of whether the ILO is sufficiently representative and democratic, the topic of Daniel Mauls’ keynote on the ILO technocrats deployed in colonial Africa. What is expertise and who gets to be an expert? Why were there distinctions between ‘real’ and ‘native’ experts? In her presentation on Alice Hamilton, Judith Rainhorn demonstrated how ‘expertise’ is thoroughly gendered.

Lastly, the ILO has always sought to legitimize itself as it seeks to expand its mandate. And it does so through processes of inclusion and engagement – processes which are curiously expansionary and discriminating (who gets access) at the same time. The issue of permeability and accessibility, it seems to me, are fully linked to questions of representation and democracy. This is something to ponder as I continue with work on #KnowingDom.