Codigo Domestico in the Flesh: Stories from Domestic Work Platforms

Posted on 01.10.2023

Codigo Domestico in the Flesh, which translates as “Domestic Code in the Flesh”, is a project which looks at the experience of domestic workers working via digital apps across Latin America and beyond. It charts the ways in which workers utilise labour platforms to earn money through domestic work and earn a livelihood, telling the stories of individual women from Bogota to Los Angles. The project allows women to tell their stories, stories of their work, but also their lives beyond the working day. Along the way we hear stories of racism and discrimination, such as Jessie, and Afro-Brazillian cleaner who tells us a story of a client who reprimanded her for using their cutlery to eat her lunch.  

 “I will never forget that day, because for me it is very sad to accept that these things still happen. There was a second drawer with the oldest, most rusty cutlery; I washed a couple to eat. When I finished eating and washed the cutlery to put it away, she [the client] took them from my hand and threw them in the trash. She told me that I shouldn’t have taken them and that I shouldn’t have used her things to eat.”1 

 Codigo Domestico is an artistic project, tun by Kruskaya Hidalgo Cordero, that seeks to show how app-based technologies are intersecting with the gendered division of labour, how they are recreating and perpetuating pre-existing inequalities and patriarchal structures. It thus asks us to question the ground on which platform capitalism is built, and interrogate the politics of ‘an algorithm built on hegemonic parameters’2. It is a feminist project, guided  by a post-positivist framework that questions the divide between researched and researcher and the power structures endemic to the research encounter. It sees women as the experts of their own lives with the aim being to give them a platform to talk about their own experiences. 

 In a story which was narrated in the evenings after long days on the job, Paola based in Bogota, Colombia talks of long hours and low pay.  

 “The truth, the truth is that is not enough… I leave here, from my house, at five in the morning and I arrive at seven, eight at night. These are fifteen hours out of my home for 33 thousand pesos. It is not justified3.” 

 Domestic work is often hidden from view, behind the doors and walls of houses that we cannot enter. In these vignettes the lives of workers is brought to life helping to deepen our understanding of working conditions in this area of the platform economy. 

 Fairwork supported Codigo Domestico in the Flesh through funding translations of their Spanish Language podcast scripts, to help these stories reach a wider audience.