Indian Migrant Women's Biographies: Revisiting Transnationalism in South Africa

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Pragna RUGUNANAN, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Migration has traditionally been seen as a primarily male domain, particularly in developing countries. However, global practices have increased the visibility of women migrants such that the feminisation and irregularization of migration has led to new flows of transnational migrant movements particularly to South Africa. This paper draws attention to the growth of south-south migration, specifically focusing on Indian women’s migration to South Africa. The paper is based on exploratory research using qualitative interviews conducted with married and unmarried Indian women. Contrary to dominant migration literature that shows women migrating as dependents, this group of women, from various social backgrounds, migrated independently to South Africa. The paper explores the reasons for their migration, their choice to migrate specifically to South Africa, and how gender is constitutive to their decision to migrate to a developing economy. The paper further explores the way gender relations are produced and reproduced in these transnational spaces, the nature of networks and migratory strategies that challenges the hegemony of traditional and patriarchal households. The paper purports that there are new forms of migration patterns that women undertake: as single women choosing to empower themselves; as educated, professional and mobile women; for reunification and career advancement, and as migrants who display agency by seeking opportunities in south-south migration. Set against the background of Newendorp’s (2010) transformative effects of migration, where migration opens up new ideas of consumption, challenges work and family roles and new forms of leisure and recreation, the paper examines how these women view South Africa as a ‘second home’ as south-south migration opens up new ways of understanding their gendered lives and how they set about reconstructing their lives in South Africa.