(English) Temporary migration as the rite de passage: Au pair stay as a way of becoming adult

22 апреля в 17:30 в помещении факультета политических наук и социологии Европейского университета в Санкт-Петербурге (Гагаринская, 3) состоится семинар, организованный программой «Гендерные исследования» совместно с Центром независимых социологических исследований (ЦНСИ). С докладом выступит Зузана Секеракова Бурикова (Масариков университет, Брно, Чехия).

Au pairs are young people (mostly women) who stay temporarily with foreign families, whom they offer childcare and/or light housework for bed, board and pocket money. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork amongst Slovak au pairs living and working in London in 2004/2005, this paper shows how Slovak female au pairs have come to see a temporary stay in Western countries as necessary for their personal development. I will argue that often being abroad or away from their parental homes for first time, Slovak female au pairs conceptualised their stays in London as a lesson in growing up, adventure and self-development; a period between living with parents, and establishing the conditions for becoming parents. Comparing au pairing to a military service which in Slovakia was until 2004 compulsory for men, the au pairs construct and experience their stays as the rite de passage they want to pass in order to become adult, experienced and/or successful. I will show how au pairing was seen as the time, when they could experience and experiment with certain freedom and individualism in life choices, relationships and consumption. Finally, the paper will claim that the conceptualisation of au pairing in the term of rite de passage is one of the reasons that they remain in oppressive and exploitative situations: they feel it is a test that they are grown up.