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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Enobong Branch

Second Advisor

Joya Misra

Third Advisor

Jennifer H. Lundquist

Fourth Advisor

Miliann Kang

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Other Sociology | Race and Ethnicity | Work, Economy and Organizations


In Portugal, high levels of women’s labor force participation, rapidly aging populations, along with the retrenchment of welfare states, has led to the expansion of publicly subsidized private care work such as home care. Much of this caring work is carried out by low-paid citizen and migrant women from the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, an independent archipelago nation off the West African coast. At the same time, Portugal is a “post-colonial” setting, with comparatively progressive policies around family settlement for migrants, and where the language of “legal race” does not exist. Taking the lived experiences of Cape Verdean home care workers as the point of entry, this ethnographic research analyzes the social and historical context under which subjective feelings of belonging emerge for Cape Verdean care workers and their families in Portugal. As an inductive, qualitative project, this research is based on 32 formal semi-structured interviews, hundreds of informal interviews with home care workers and informants and over 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Lisbon, Portugal. I argue that home care work and Cape Verdean workers’ experiences thereof bears the imprint of broader societal changes and processes regarding raced, classed and gendered dynamics around the social organization of care in Portugal. I find that a racialized and international division of reproductive labor shapes Cape Verdean workers’ labor market position, their experiences on the job and their own caring within their own families. Cape Verdean home care workers are racialized as Black and inferior by Portuguese colleagues and by those for whom they care and their families; many of their job requirements, both physical and emotional, are uncompensated, as workers may work additional unpaid hours due to the needs of their clients; within their private lives, workers face tremendous difficulties balancing their paid care work with their own families’ need for care. I conclude that the experiences of Cape Verdean home care workers not only challenge scholars to address the insecurity experienced by a seemingly stable workforce (naturalized, resident and contracted) but also to center research on the unique experiences of the resident and citizen African community in Portugal.