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The Case of Barkas in Hyderabad

Women Migrants and Social Remittances

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.

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Updated On : 26th Apr, 2019

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