Navigating work, bargaining with patriarchy in India: Understanding women’s work in the small city

Authors: Mukta Naik*, Centre for Policy Research, Eesha Kunduri, Centre for Policy Research
Topics: Gender, Urban and Regional Planning, Economic Geography
Keywords: small city, urban studies, gender, employment, patriarchy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drawing on survey data and qualitative enquiry in two small cities in India—in Kishangarh, Rajasthan and Mangalore, Karnataka—the paper describes the experiences of young women (aged 15-29) in Indian small cities as they negotiate employment and work. We find that while young men focus on education levels, networks and access to capital while describing their negotiations with the labour market, young women are predominantly engaged in “individual power tactics” in what Kandiyoti describes as the ‘patriarchal bargain’. In this, they focus on issues like tradition, parental consent, marriage and care responsibilities even as they negotiate employment type, location of work and transportation. Through vignettes, our paper describes the subtle differences between these negotiations across religion, caste and economic class in these two case cities. In particular, the paper draws attention to the context of the small city, where migrant women are less likely to experience the kind of freedoms that the metropolis offers, even as they are more connected and better informed than their rural peers. In this, we hint at an evolving distinction between northern and southern patriarchies in the Indian context and argue that there is a place for specificity of urban experience with regards to city size, nature of urbanization, history and diversity when we theorize about women’s mobility and work in the Global South.

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