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Women Migrants and Social Remittances

The Case of Barkas in Hyderabad

Anushyama Mukherjee (anushyamam@gmail.com) is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Aparna Rayaprol (arayaprol@uohyd.ac.in) is with the University of Hyderabad, Telangana.

An ethnographic study of the women migrants in Barkas, an old Arabian neighbourhood in Hyderabad, shows that women migrants over the years have moved from being the so-called dependant migrants to noteworthy contributors to the development of links between the sending and the receiving nations. Making a departure from the earlier studies of diasporas, this paper points to the fact that despite being involved in circular migration, and even in their gendered roles, women can affect the formation of the diasporas through their social remittances.

From critiquing the androcentric frameworks of migration to the feminist empiricism and finally upholding the centrality of gender alongside others forms of identity— such as class race or caste—contemporary migration and diasporic theories have begun to include and privilege gender in ways that were not done before. Till the turn of the century, immigrant women were treated more as migrants’ wives rather than as migrants themselves (Rayaprol 1997). From “adding” the woman (or gender) to the margin, to “bringing” her to the centre stage of the diaspora discourse, the feminist scholarship had indeed come a long way by the end of the 20th century. The very early work on indentured labourers within the subfield of migration and diaspora studies had almost completely erased the presence of female indentured labour. For instance, plantation workers were male and often black, but gender became an axis of marginality only in later studies. The experience of women being exploited both economically and sexually on the colonial plantations presents a subaltern perspective to the study of that period. Tejaswini Niranjana’s (2006) landmark documentation of the subaltern diaspora in the Caribbean explores the role that women played in the early 20th-century campaign against indentured servitude. Niranjana reveals that India’s denial of the indentured woman in Trinidad—viewed as morally depraved—is central to its own anti-colonial struggle.

Women’s experiences must be understood in terms of the concrete historical and political practices within which they are embedded. The assumption that women are a coherent group with homogeneous interests, problems, and desires, regardless of differences in class, ethnic, and racial origins, or religion, implies that the notion of gender as a category can be applied universally. Feminist scholars in the South Asian diaspora have challenged this notion and made a space for scholarship that focuses on difference, but with the understanding of gendered realities (Rayaprol 2011). While migration and relocation, in general, involve rupture and disjuncture, women are more susceptible to the brunt of these ruptures and the associated burden of cultural reproduction and socialisation. An emerging strand of literature in this context explores the female migration to informal service sectors.

Of the few Indian studies existing in this domain, Kodoth and Varghese’s (2010) study on the Keralite immigrant women in the Gulf countries, shows that the state and social regulations in Kerala have serious consequences for the prospects of these women as domestic workers in the Gulf. Indian migration to the Gulf has been growing rapidly over time. It represents a peculiar case where migrants are predominantly temporary workers or sojourners. Consequently, family members can only be deemed as visitors, even though they may be involved in circular migration, and, in their gendered roles, involved in specific ways in the diasporas. The current paper explores this dimension of Gulf migration further by using a three-year ethnographic study of the lives of women in Barkas, an old Arabian neighbourhood in Hyderabad, who travel with their families or husbands to the Gulf.1 These women are not considered “temporary workers” but “visitors” in the Gulf. The paper is based on a study of 196 individuals from 43 households, comprising 39% men, 44% women and 17% children between five and 17 years of age, who migrated to the Gulf for various purposes. While men migrated mostly for occupational purposes, marriage migration predominated the movement of women to these countries.

The paper uses Levitt’s (1998) concept of social remittances to understand and explain the nature and pattern of migration in Barkas. Levitt argued that social and cultural exchanges are inevitable parts of diasporic lives, and that transnational migration transforms family and work life of not only the migrants, but also of those who stay behind in the process of migration. Work for women, especially in the contexts of gender-segregated lives, tend to focus on care-work and cultural transmissions through families and related networks. Social remittances, in the context of increasing restrictions on the formation of more permanent diasporas, are often in the form of women’s contributions.

Historical Context of Migration from Barkas

With the end of the Nizam’s era in 1956, Hadramis and many Hyderabadis2 lost their jobs and started migrating to the Gulf countries mainly for occupational purposes, especially from the 1970s onwards. The sudden rise in the international oil prices during the 1970s gave a tremendous boost to the economies of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Persian Gulf. This initiated massive industrialisation that required large numbers of unskilled and skilled humanpower and therefore had opened up new opportunities. Semi-skilled and unskilled workers went to the Gulf countries where all sorts of low-tech jobs were available, including lift operators, mechanics, carpenters, cleaners, domestic maids and drivers. In other words, most migrants from Barkas went on temporary labour contracts to jobs with a low occupational status and high job uncertainty.

On the other hand, even though parts of Hyderabad began to flourish with the information technology (IT) boom, the old city remained somewhat as the neglected “other” (Ramachandraiah et al 2008). The upwardly mobile do not want to be associated with the old city. The groups of young IT professionals, who have been flocking to Hyderabad, often feel that it is not their city, and they are safe in their isolated and self-contained life in Cyberabad, the new city.3 With the developments in the Gulf, people from older parts of the city like Barkas, started moving in large numbers to find various types of jobs. Individuals migrated to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE. Given the low levels of occupation, the financial remittances were not substantial at a national level, but may have helped at the level of individual mobility. While most works on migration and diaspora are on economic remittances, the focus here is on the relationship between gender and social remittances, which have become important contributions to life in Barkas.

Gendered Context of Migration from Barkas

Barkas, a neighbourhood in the old city of Hyderabad, is inhabited mainly by the Chaush community who were descendants of the Hadrami Arab military men and bodyguards hailing from the Hadramaut region of Yemen (Mukherjee 2014, 2017). There are clearly demarcated gendered spaces in the area and lots of restrictions on the mobility of girls and women. Education is not given as much importance in this area, especially for women. Reading Quran at home is considered to be important for women. Besides, it is difficult for women to attend schools outside Barkas, not only due to the restrictions on their mobility, but also because Barkas is far from the main city.

With an exposure from the migration to the Gulf, however, more women from Barkas have started going to schools and colleges, though with a lot of surveillance from the family. However, they are not allowed to work outside the house. In the process of migration to the Gulf, women become temporary or dependant migrants who look after the family and stay at home. But, their social remittances have led to a mix of culture in Barkas, a certain form of hybridisation (Mukherjee 2014, 2017).

The first generation of Barkas residents, primarily the Hadramis, were mostly born in Yemen, and the second generation, in the age group of 70 years, were born in Hyderabad from parents born in Yemen and Hyderabad. This generation migrated in the 1970s, and found work as construction labourers, store keepers, carpenters, tailors, and mechanics in garages. The third generation who are mainly in their 60s have mostly worked as shopkeepers and manual labourers, while those in the age cohort of 45 years work in jobs with relatively better occupational status, such as bank operation managers, chefs, pharmacists, accountants, bus drivers, businessmen, salesmen, waiters, electricians, airline pilots, and technicians. The fourth generation (20s) are those who are born in Hyderabad and are presently studying or working in the Gulf and other countries. They are mostly working as white-collar employees.

Consequently, there is an emerging cognisance among the older generation that education opens new dimensions for social mobility. It provides the necessary qualifications, abilities and skills that are required for various occupations, which are the principle channels of social mobility. One of the respondents in the study, a member of the Qureshi family pointed out,

We could not do much in the Gulf as we were not educated. But our children are acquiring better education than us. Presently, many have migrated to the Gulf with respectable jobs. Across generations, education has helped in the development of our children and their future.

Further, the acquisition of education also depends upon what people think of it and how useful they consider it. For example, an important feature of the fourth generation, that is, the rising generation respondents’ perception about education is that they consider it useful for getting profitable occupations in the Gulf.

Occupational mobility, on the other hand, has potentially given rise to economic mobility for the migrants and their families. However, several problems in measuring occupational mobility are documented in the existing literature (see Rahman 1995 for details). A commonly followed technique is to grade occupations as high and low according to their prestige score. Based on this approach, respondents, like Abdul Rahim’s brother, a 29-year-old businessman in Dubai, have pointed out an upward mobility in their occupation,

I migrated to Dubai 6 years ago with the help of a friend. I started out as a salesman and then became a business partner with an Arabian. Due to an increase in my financial status, I have taken my family from here to Dubai. My wife takes care of my family in Dubai. I am happy to see her become a smart woman after migration.

But, whether economic mobility could influence the social status of the migrant families is debateable. Educational opportunities continue to be gendered. Second and third generation women in Barkas are mostly uneducated or with minimum education due to early marriages. They are trained in household tasks and for raising children, in conformity with the traditional gender-based division of labour. The culture of domesticity—noted in every country of the world in different historical periods—perceives women as virtues of piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness. For example, Sharai’s mother, who is 63 years old and lives in Dubai with her family, has pointed out,

There is no need for women to go to schools and colleges. I am illiterate as my father had no money for my education. My daughters studied till 5th standard and left school. My husband did not want them to study further as they were supposed to be trained in household work. There was no extra money for their education. They have studied Quran at home. They do not know English.

In this case, the male members of this family are working in the Government of UAE and consider themselves as belonging to the upper-middle-income class, but do not give enough importance to education for women. There are few families who still believe that education is not for girls. Women from these families, after completing Class 5 started taking Quran lessons and helped their mothers and grandmothers with household chores. This trend, however, is even present among some of the fourth or the present generation as well.

Yet, in some families, the fourth generation women are more educated as compared to their mothers and grandmothers, and are trained in using latest technological gadgets and computer applications. Women of the fourth generation are completing their masters degrees and diplomas in computer sciences. Teenagers are studying in English-medium schools, although in small numbers. While gender roles seem to be changing across generations (though rather slowly), the ideology of patriarchy continues to persist across classes, whereby women are generally expected to look after the family by performing various roles such as that of a daughter, wife, mother and grandmother.

Exposure and contact with the outer world are made through television and internet, and meeting friends in schools and colleges, and mixing with fellow migrant women from
the Gulf. Such exposure has potentially made the fourth generation women aware of other choices, such as obtaining
university degrees than getting married or staying at home
after their intermediate studies. Simultaneously, these choices are met with resistance from the previous generation. For instance, a female respondent pointed out that

My father-in-law came back from Hadramaut after two decades as he wanted to work there. Now he wants us to follow the everyday practices of Hadramaut. I am educated and I want to work but I’m not allowed to.

While a common criticism amongst the older generation is about the exposure of the younger generation women to social media, which allegedly prevents the latter from following
traditional social rules.

Young men, however, can decide their places of work, which in recent times is not always to the Gulf. Currently, few have also migrated to London, Australia and Singapore. Many of them even revealed their preference for pursuing higher education rather than working.

Gender and Social Remittances

Almost all women in our study have emphasised that economic mobility is the major gain from their husbands’ migration. This has elevated their status within the family, but could not give them control over finances, or the right to participate in decision-making processes, or respite from the continued domination by the male members of the family. Yet, the commonly perceived benefit of migration is the boost to women’s self-confidence and hence their ability to get things done in a man’s world. Loneliness, mental stress, and hard work are present, and are dependent on making choices within and outside households. However, mobile phones and internet have made distances shorter for communication.

Women in Barkas are the beneficiaries of migration, but are not often the kind of domestic workers who migrate from Kerala. In Kerala, emigration has tended to increase labour force participation among females (Rajan 2003). Kodoth and Varghese (2010) in their work on migrant women domestic workers in Kerala argued that state policies and social regulations create serious consequences for the prospects of Indian women domestic workers in the Gulf.

Scholars have examined the economic networks between diasporas and home countries, but only a few country-specific studies have concluded that women remitted more than men (Lucas and Stark 1985; UNFPA and IOM 2006; World Bank 2004), while other studies focus on the gender-specific behaviour of monetary and social remittances (Pessar and Mahler 2003; Piper 2005; Ramirez et al 2005; Sorensen 2005; Carling 2008). Grasmuck and Pessar’s (1991) work on Mexican and Dominican migrants has shown that migration was not only a reaction to economic conditions, but also the result of a gendered response within households, family, and friend networks. In the case of the Philippines, Parrenas (2001) demonstrated that, even after migration, women continued to provide emotional care by paying regular visits, making telephone calls, and writing letters. Ehrenreich and Hochschild’s (2002) work on the care complexities of immigrant women focused on the lives of those female migrants who are increasingly filling the care vacuum in developed countries by taking up jobs as domestic workers, nannies, and sex workers. Up until the 1970s, domestic workers were mainly from India, Philippines, and Indonesia, and the Filipina women earned more in the Gulf than the Indian women given their higher educational qualifications. Their movements are not given importance in many studies on migration though they hold key roles in international migration as remitters.

Similarly, the movements of the Barkas women remain unrecorded. In Barkas, although women may be contributing to the work and family mobility, their contributions continue to be invisible. The women from Barkas who migrate to the Gulf typically go with the entire family or with their husbands. Some of them may stay back if their husbands have migrated alone. Though their movements are invisible in the migration literature, they are key players in negotiating the complexities of international migration. They are, in effect, a part of a kind of circular migration. They move from Barkas to the Gulf and back again to Barkas. Sometimes their husbands are the migrants, but that has a major impact on the way they negotiate their own lives. Bringing the Arabian culture back home is a common phenomenon now in Barkas. Primarily homemakers, these women become social remitters; their contribution may not be economic, but is immense.

Migrants are found to decide on the relevance of connections based on their assumptions about their future needs. Kurien (2008) has observed striking differences in how economic remittances were used in three Indian villages in Kerala. Migrants from the Muslim village distribute their remittance to a large circle of community members. Hindus, on the other hand, spent much on life cycle rituals, and Christians support their families, which includes saving for dowry and education. Other than spending on social activities, migrants have also remitted various items of conspicuous consumption, such as televisions, air conditioners, music systems, mobile phones, gold, and computers, which triggered more luxurious lifestyles and consumption patterns in their homelands. Similar consumption patterns have been observed in Barkas, too.

Household is the major domain where time and space budgeting, resource allocation, and real location are contested, negotiated, and decided by men and women. Apart from remitting money, certain social and cultural practices are constantly being exchanged between the Gulf and Hyderabad. Women were always full of stories of their experiences in the Gulf that influenced people’s lives at home. These social remittances appear to be affecting women’s education in Barkas, gender division of labour in the household, women’s religious practices, like reading the Quran, and the cultures of food and dressing.

Women as Social Remitters

Social remittances are exchanged when a migrant comes back on holidays or moves back permanently. The migrants frequently influence the local ways of living through the ideas and social values that they bring along, which in most cases are accepted by the family members and friends because of the formers’ higher social status, knowledge, and networks abroad. It is also true that some, especially the older women of the family, transfer them because they consciously want to be the remittance transmitters.

Social remittance is also a consequence of the migrants’ or their family’s gender, class, and life cycle position. In Barkas, younger women with education have the tendency to reject certain types of remittances, whereas married women are obliged to accept them. For example, Bahraja’s youngest daughter, Mona Hassan, after migrating to the Gulf with her husband, refused the practice of using the veil within the private sphere inside her house in Barkas. Soon after her migration, she had even set up a small business unit in her house in Barkas, which is now looked after by her sister-in-law and other female members of the family. These female members were initially not permitted to look after the business, especially the finances. However, with Mona’s initiative, female members now feel confident dealing with the financial matters of their businesses. Men, too, no longer show any sign of resistance in such matters. Others, such as Ahnaa, a 31-year-old migrant to Dammam for four years, return with more liberal ideas that they exchange at home. Ahnaa, for instance, pointed out that

When I go home or speak to my family on the phone, I tell them everything about my life in Dammam-laws and rules, shops, food. I personally feel that my family or my locality at large should behave the way people behave in Saudi Arabia.

After living in the Gulf, many women felt liberated from the everyday domestic practices that prevail in Barkas. For the first time, many have walked on the streets freely, went to buy items from the stores alone, many have worn jeans, and many have interacted with neighbours from other countries and also from India. These are important lifestyle changes for women who are born and raised in Barkas. Therefore, many migrant women have tried to build greater confidence among other migrants as well locals. Further, eating habits, buying everyday commodities, or visiting places have also changed post-migration. Women try their best to introduce new recipes to women have not migrated yet. Also, they try to include a food item from the Gulf in marriage ceremonies. On the other hand, the women in the neighbourhood who visited, but did not live in the Gulf, and those who never visited the Gulf, were living secluded lives, circumscribed by practices that were popularly constructed by men.

Gendered spaces, ironically, facilitate the transmission of ideas. Women in Barkas enjoy private spaces popularly known as zenana (women’s quarters) with other women in their houses. Here, mothers talk about their children’s education in the Gulf, about the migration process to the Gulf, and young women share recipes and discuss preparations for festive occasions, how these practices should be transmitted from one generation to another, how religious practices take place in the Gulf countries, and the latest fashion trends in the Gulf, and elucidate on matters such as who migrated where and for how many days. They also discuss cases where women are abandoned post-marriage and their perception of the Gulf countries as unsafe without the company of a man. Small parties or get togethers are organised in Barkas frequently, mostly late in the night among close relatives and friends. Women mostly gather in the kitchen area or another room inside the sitting room and men do not intrude into these spaces. Older men and teenage unmarried boys, however, could intermittently become part of such conversations. In these separate spaces, women take off their veils and burkas as there is a degree of informality and comfort (Mukherjee 2017). They exchange views about the Gulf countries that can influence the locals who have not yet migrated. They also encourage their daughters to get educated.

Women, Cultural Capital and Remittances

Cultural capital refers to non-financial social assets that promote upward mobility beyond economic means, for example, education, cultural activities and dressing or physical appearances (Bourdieu and Passeron 1973). Cultural capital is the accumulated knowledge that gives power and status in the society. Levitt (2001), Bruman (2002) and others have argued that cultural remittances represented people’s emotional
attachment and the way in which migrants abroad have utilised their family links to maintain cultural connections in their homeland. An interesting type of cultural remittance became evident in the case of a Hadrami man who migrated from his ancestral homeland in Yemen to his present homeland in Hyderabad. From Hyderabad, he has migrated to Yemen first and then to Dubai for occupational purposes. Salem Bin-Omer Bin-Mafoor attempted to remit the culture of Yemen to his family through women:

I was in Hadramaut for 10 years in my teenage days. My father took me there to work. When I came here for holidays, I always wanted my family and the neighbourhood to follow the tradition and everyday life that is practiced in Hadramaut and this can be best done through women as they are the trainers for the next generation.

Certain views are readily accepted in the neighbourhood, such as the Hadramis belief that Yemen is their original homeland.

Another form of cultural remittance, according to Levitt (1998), is the formation of “cross pollination which produced hybrid forms.” Individuals experienced varied forms of culture in the Gulf and brought back few with them. “Dress” is a typical example of this in Barkas. Women in general wear burkas while going outside their homes, but with some modification like supplanting salwar kurta by jeans and (long-sleeved) shirts. This change is imbibed especially by the young women, who have adopted this way of dressing in the host land.

Returning migrant women, also brought back with them new ways of housekeeping. Ameena, for instance, a migrant to Muscat with her husband for more than eight years, imbibed new skills and knowledge of coping in the Gulf by being less dependent on the men. Further, she shared these with her family in Barkas as a part of information and ideas exchange process:

In Muscat I manage the household work and raised my children. I have learnt Arabic eventually in order to interact with local women. I always tell my cousins in Barkas to be independent.

The Gulf culture is found to have transformed consumption through remittances, and is changing the social status and family relationships in India (Vora 2008). There is a sign of upward social mobility through food habits. The migrants, who were mostly from the middle- and lower-middle-class families prior to migration, perceive their economic status to be relative better off in the neighbourhood, if they can replicate their food habits from the Gulf in Barkas. To them, eating a special sauce from Dubai sitting at their home in Barkas is a symbol of the rise in their status. Many of these migrants, however, are working as tailors, drivers, sweepers, shopkeeper assistants, and waiters in hotels in the Gulf, and their migration is through strong social networks, kin relations, and affiliation through mosques and other groups. Women are the key persons to continue this practice of exchange through recipes. Women migrants from Barkas buy food items from the Indian grocery stores in the Gulf and at the same time they bring back Arabian habits, spices, and recipes. There are stores in different parts of Hyderabad, including Barkas, that sell food items of the Gulf. Barkas is a microcosm of the larger global proliferation of Indian food around the world.

Exchanges are related to the systems of practice that are shaped by normative structures.4 In Barkas, these types of remittances have far-reaching consequences in terms of household labour, religious practices and, to some extent, political awareness. Women migrants from Barkas have started following the Arabs for certain religious practices, such as visits to Hajj in the recent times, daily recitation of the Quran, or even Quran lessons for children, including girls, at home and in the nearby mosques. During Ramadan, they cook food items from the Gulf as a symbol of their migrant identity. Religious institutions in the Gulf have often helped newcomers, especially the women, to cope and build a life from the scratch. Our women respondents pointed out that migrants and their families not only discuss the religious practices which are prominent in the Gulf, but also spread these among their friends and immediate neighbours through women’s gatherings.

According to Levitt (2003), returning migrants also bring with them particular incarnations of global religion that help transform the traditional gender roles. Earlier, women reading Quran together was not a common phenomenon. Therefore, women’s slow but significant entry into hitherto gendered religious spaces is noteworthy. Women in Barkas, migrants and non-migrants have never visited mosques even in Barkas due to restriction on physical mobility. They have not visited even the women’s quarter of the mosque. Now, after migration to the Gulf, going to the mosque and reading the Quran in a group is one such activity of entering into gendered religious spaces, where they not only discuss the readings from the Quran but their everyday life in both lands.

Household labour is another area where changes are taking place. Migration offers women the opportunity to redefine and recreate roles for themselves and complex experiences that can have both positive and negative effects. In Barkas, their lives were organised around the extended family and patrilocality. Married women, before migration, practised a clearly demarcated gendered division of labour in the household. Chores were often overseen by the paternal grandmothers and every woman in the extended family knew her duty. This social framework provided family support to the young bride for raising children. Now, the exigencies of migration have made women re-evaluate the perceptions of self and take on both social and economic roles, which may have been rejected at home (Buijs 1993). Most of the time, without extended families and in-laws, they play a bigger role in structuring their family according to their own understanding, and moving into more gender equal structures. Thus, for them migrating to the Gulf means freedom of movement and physical security as there is no extended family to control them. According to a young woman who migrated to Dubai with her family in 2008:

I am comfortable in Dubai. I am free. It is like America. There are very little restrictions on me. Every time I visit Barkas, I bring spices, cosmetics, shoes and scarves for my cousins.

At the other end of the spectrum are women like Nazia, a 42-year-old housewife who had migrated to Doha with her husband in 2007. Nazia craves to return to Hyderabad to her family. In a conversation with her, she mentioned that life in Doha is restricted and lonely. She is not allowed to work in the host land. Moreover, spaces for social interaction are limited and hence she confines herself to her home with her children. However, she did point out that it is necessary for residents of Barkas to move out of their homes as it gives exposure and opportunities to develop themselves and improve their everyday life.

According to Leonard (2007), “Hyderabadi women saw the UAE as a middle ground, a place that required neither rigid preservation nor drastic alteration of family and community traditions.” Similarly, women in Barkas saw Dubai as a country for their freedom of movement and space to live life with some flexibility. Given the orthodox culture of tradition in Barkas, women after migrating, either with their husbands or with the families, now encourage women left behind to pursue higher education. For instance, Tahura, a young woman from Barkas, was of the opinion that nothing is typically Hyderabadi any longer, rather a mixture of Arabian and Hyderabadi. This is because migrants are constantly extracting the good from both cultures and reproducing their own. Today, in many families, the women are more educated as compared to their mothers and grandmothers, and can use the internet and latest technological gadgets for communication. The previous generations of women are being exposed to such modes of communication through these younger women. For a young migrant woman, education and internet availability are the important remittances through which they remain connected to their families in distant lands. Social media has certainly played a major role in broadening the scope of communication and the cultural capital base for these people.

At the same time, the first generation migrant families from Hyderabad, too, are important social remitters. A 51-year-old housewife who returned from Riyadh in 2011 after two decades pointed out that she shared as much information as possible so that next generation women do not face problems in the host land. “I feel sharing information is the most important than bringing cosmetics and modern gadgets,” she said. But, circular migration also leads to expectations of gifts of conspicuous consumption items or lifestyle products by the family back in Hyderabad. For instance, a 41-year-old housewife, an occasional visitor to Doha, has pointed out that her family members had expectations of receiving certain material items from the Gulf,

Whenever I made telephone calls to my family and friends in Barkas, they used to say “you have to bring this for me, you have to bring that for me!” As all of us live in the same neighbourhood so bringing gifts, food items and dress materials is common.

However, it is also important to note that the nature of the remittances from all Gulf countries is not the same. For example, in Saudi Arabia, where wearing abaya all the time is necessary for a woman and her physical mobility is only possible with the company of a man, the migrant women sometimes become more conservative in their everyday practices. Nauheed, a 52-year-old migrant housewife to Jeddah, pointed out that “Jeddah and Barkas are the same. Mobility is a challenge.” Faced with isolation, these women often try to recreate as much of their domicile environment as possible in their effort to achieve some sort of coherence with their surroundings in the host country. And many women even attempt to maintain similar roles that they had in Hyderabad.

There is also a third set of women migrants, those who were married to Arab citizens and whose daughters are Arabs by birth. When they come to Barkas for annual visits, these young girls experience social difficulty in interacting with other women of their mothers’ families, the most common challenge being the language for communication, as they speak in Arabic and only a few women in Barkas could speak or understand the language. It is then that the families showed greater interest in learning the language as something new that has been remitted by the messengers.

In Conclusion

Men and women migrating to different countries bring back different kinds of ideas that are exchanged between two or more countries. Although with upward social mobility over generations, economic remittances are common in Barkas, social remittances are transmitted especially by women. Although not all ideas and habits are exchanged, their contribution is immense in creating new changes in both lands. Migrants and their families have shaped the lives of the locals in multiple ways. In this paper, we have focused on the gendered social remittances in course of circular migration. The focus is primarily on women and the ways in, which their lives constantly change with circular migration and in turn influence the lives of the non-migrant women in their families, peergroups, and neighbourhoods.

Notes

1 Barkas is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Hyderabad that still tries to maintain its migrant identity through everyday practices. In the process, women became the bearers of tradition, the diasporic identity. Women play an important role in the formation and maintenance of such identities through food, dressing, language and certain ways of behaviour in an everyday setting. For example, it is common in Barkas that if a Hadrami woman is seen on the street then the Hadrami man covers himself with their headgear to avoid eye contact. Now this was a common practice in Hadramaut in Yemen which residents of Barkas still maintain in its full potential. As the dominant culture of Barkas is Hadrami culture, therefore, residents who do not identify themselves as Hadramis also follow this practice along with many others. In such a complex setting, women play an important role as important remittance transmitters, especially post migration to the Gulf where this type of everyday practice is constantly undergoing change.

2 Hadrami and Hyderabadi identities are self- proclaimed identities. Residents cannot be categorised as Hadrami or Hyderabadi due to mixed marriages for a long period of time. However, at present, it is inhabited by fourth generation Hadramis.

3 In 1956, Hyderabad state was dissolved and Andhra Pradesh state was merged with the Telangana region to form the state of Andhra Pradesh. On 2 June 2014, separating from Andhra Pradesh Telangana became the 29th state of India with Hyderabad as its capital.

4 According to Levitt (1998), there are three types of social remittances; normative structures, systems of practice, and social capital. Normative structures include norms of behaviour, notions about family responsibilities, principles of neighbourliness, community participation, and aspirations for upward social mobility. Gender, class, race, and identity played an important role in defining the normative structure of social remittances. Systems of practice are the actions created by the normative structures. This includes how individuals delegate household tasks and their participation in political and civic groups.

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Updated On : 26th Apr, 2019

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