The Au-­Pair Program: An Institutionalized form of Trans-Atlantic Cultural Flow

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Anna Kuroczycka Schultes

The Au-­Pair Program: An Institutionalized form of Trans-Atlantic Cultural Flow

In order to fulfil its foreign policy objectives, mainly to strengthen its ties with other countries, the

U.S. government passed The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, otherwise referred to as the Fulbright- Hays Act. The Act initiated the idea of cultural exchange and remain the basic charter for all U.S. government-­‐sponsored educational and cultural exchanges. While initially the program’s intention was to bring scholars across the Atlantic to the U.S. in order to teach or pursue their education and then return back to their home countries with newly gained knowledge, it then extended into the private sector to incorporate, among others, interns, work/travel program participants, and eventually au pairs. It remains questionable, however, whether this backward and forward flow of peoples across the ocean contributed to each shaping the heritage of the other or whether this flow was mainly unilateral, serving as a means of establishing American exceptionalism abroad.

My research focuses specifically on the au pair’s role as a cultural broker. Although Ulf Hannerz describes au pairs as a hybrid category of visitor between tourist and low‐income service sector migrant, in a temporary state of voluntary relative poverty (Transnational Connections), I argue that the culture of both au pair and host family is impacted through the exchange program.

Au pairs increase their own cultural capital and contribute to an increase in both the cultural and social capital of their host families; thus, shaping the value that heritage conveys.

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