Gendered Mobility and Caste-Ed Morality: Exploring Migrant Trajectories of Women from Gounder Caste in Southern India

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Swati VIJAYA, The Ohio State University, USA
The wider contemporary mainstream migration scholarship continues to conceive women’s mobility as governed by economic determinants. However, it is not only economics that has an important relationship to the cityward migration of women. Rather, the significance of women's mobility lies in the linkages between their migration, which is a process of adjustment, the changes in societal boundaries that provoke it, and the cultural consequences. My proposed paper probes precisely these socio-cultural process and impacts of women’s migration. I wish to look into the new possibilities presented to young women of the Gounder caste who actively sought these new spaces of ‘modern’ employment  by “new” cities which emerged in the past two decade in India following the structural reforms which led to liberalization of the economy.

The ‘family’ and the ‘city’ being the sending and receiving entities share a dialectical relationship with women’s mobility. These structures not only impact the way Gounder women perceive themselves, but also how they transform and transgress gender and caste borders to accommodate their occupational migration. However, this process of ‘accommodation’ is undergird by anxieties and the few transgression made in the due course have come to constitute a fear of “eroding community values” in the Gounder caste today. Given this backdrop, I intend to analyze the urban mechanisms of control and surveillance informed by caste moralities aimed at disciplining Gounder women in urban spaces.

The overarching aim in this context will be to analyze the dialectics of women’s mobility and the city space informed by gender and caste norms. Thus, the paper will also throw light on the socio-cultural impact women’s migration on native society. The proposed paper will attempt to form an understanding of gendered intersections between migration, city and caste, through the narratives derived out of my ethnographic study of Gounder women.