Durability of Colonial Categories: Experiences from Hyderabad

Authors: Pallavi Gupta*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Topics: Gender, Asia, Women
Keywords: Hyderabad India, Muslim young women, decolonial, feminist geography.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Washington 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In line with prior colonial representations, Muslim women and girls in India, are portrayed as a monolithic entity. This characterization ignores the differences rooted in caste, class, and other divisions. The gendered nature of these categorizations means that Muslim women are often portrayed as hapless victims who need support; and Muslim men are portrayed as savage brutes who marry four times and oppress Muslim women.

I draw on fieldwork conducted during summer of 2018 in Hyderabad to examine how axes of discrimination affect young Muslim women’s access to employment opportunities. The fieldwork involved in-depth interviews with 25 young Muslim women and with five functionaries from leading community-based-organizations. My fieldwork narrates a richly textured story; one of a struggle for upward mobility, of trying to break free of the shackles moored in social, cultural, religious, and gender norms, and of young girls trying to negotiating their environs to lay claim to jobs and dignity.

I ask how cities and workplaces can be sites of exclusion based on uneven experiences of citizenship, identity, and gender. I employ feminist decolonial and feminist-geography frameworks to understand young Muslim women’s experiences. Both these frameworks help examine knowledge production from the “global south.” I argue in my paper that colonial legacies shape the lived experiences of young Muslim women and that at the same time, these women try to occupy several colonial categories in a fluid, real-time manner, so as to negotiate with a complex, sometimes hostile, external environment.

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