Emotional politics in cleaning work: The case of Israel

Orly Benjamin, Deborah Bernstein, Pnina Motzafi-Haller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Emotional politics instil insecurity and doubt in working-class individuals. Researchers examining social degradation through (bad) employment or other stigma have demonstrated the exclusionary impact of this process. Some suggest that individuals respond to such emotional politics and other types of exclusion by identity-management strategies aiming at a sense of worth, whereas others have found self-isolation to dominate. Here we analyse the emotional politics emerging from women's responses to exclusion in the socially degraded field of cleaning in three ethno-national contexts in Israel. The sample was composed of Mizrahi women in the southern periphery, immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and Israeli-Palestinian women from Arab settlements in the north. By analysing cleaning employees' talk, we characterize these women's struggle to derive a sense of worth from their breadwinning experience within a specific ethno-national context in terms of family, community and workplace. We discuss the similarities and differences among these three groups with regard to the relative weight of each of these circles for negotiation of belonging and inclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-357
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • emotional politics
  • ethnicity
  • job/employee attitudes
  • labour process
  • subcontracted cleaning
  • work and family

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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