Domestic Service Remembered and Performed
This chapter investigates the late-twentieth-century popular memory of domestic service, and suggests the multiple ways in which service mediates the past for British audiences. It illustrates both past certainties of belonging and exploitation and inequality. It asks how we come to remember service at particular moments. Two major areas of memory are explored; first, the televisual depictions of service within situation comedies, dramas, feature films, and reality television, and second, the heritage performances within British ‘great house’ properties. Drawing on interviews with curators and interpreters of these settings, as well as the popular responses to television and cinema, the chapter argues for the positive role that the re-enactments of service can make to popular audiences, while remaining critical of its perceived lack of connection with late-twentieth-century employment of domestic workers, and its inability to represent the very widespread phenomenon of middle-class servant-keeping.
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