Sonia Krishna Kurup
Feminist scholars have often contested the dichotomy associated with gendered analysis of internal migration in India that identifies male mobility primarily within the purview of labour and female migration as marriage driven. Many historical studies have explored women’s early work-based migration in professions such as nursing and teaching. This presentation examines the experiences of educated, middle class women from Nair and Christian communities who had migrated from Kerala in search of gainful employment, in the various defence establishments in Pune, in early postcolonial India. Through close examination of oral narratives and archival data, my study shows that associated factors facilitated the migration and employment of single and educated Malayali women in Pune. These include the presence of an influential, caste-based social network of Malayali migrants in Pune; the female migrant’s desire to supplement familial income and enable social mobility; their status as single and educated at the time of migration; and the requirements of unpaid and gendered domestic and care work from female kin. I employ an alternative conceptual framework termed ‘smart femininity’ to contend that educated and middle-class women’s motivations to undertake inter-state migration for employment was also situated in their desire towards employment in certain professions considered ‘respectable’ due to historical association of these jobs with caste status and social prestige in colonial Kerala. The study contributes to some of the main areas of migration studies, such as on why people migrate, and to historical research on skilled labour migration in pre-liberalisation India.
About the Speaker
Sonia Krishna Kurup is a feminist researcher in migration studies and social movements in India. Her doctoral research was a historical study of interstate (internal) labour migration in early postcolonial India, focusing on migrant, middle-class women’s experiences of family, the immigrant network, and the labour market. She has also worked on movement-counter movement dynamics concerning notions of public morality in contemporary India through the study of an online campaign.
She obtained her PhD in women’s studies from K S P Women’s Studies Centre, S P Pune University in 2020, and her Master’s degree from Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, New Delhi, in 2012. She also has nearly five years of work experience as a writer and editor, including as an international consultant for UN Women.
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This is the hundred and thirty-fourth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Rémi de Bercegol at firstname.lastname@example.org, Olivier Telle of CSH at email@example.com, Mukta Naik at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marie-Hélène Zerah at email@example.com.