Negotiations, Resistance and Gender Relations: The role of women’s education and employment in the transformation of Muslim families in South Asia.
Dr. Sara Amin & Dr. Varuni Ganepola
Challenging the idea of a monolithic ahistorical patriarchal family in which women are powerless and men are powerful, research has shown that the family is a site of negotiation, resistance and transformation between and within genders. What forms these strategies, negotiations and resistances take is significantly mediated by differences in class and culture, and the worldviews produced through lived experiences in specific contexts. In this paper, utilizing a comparative approach, based on 366 in-depth individual interviews from 111 families, we examine the ways women and men in Muslim families in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are negotiating and resisting the constraints they face from within and outside the family to take advantage of the expanding opportunities for women in education and employment in their communities. Specifically, we examine a) the patriarchal bargains struck by women and men as they attempt to exercise their agency and shift ideals about the “good” woman in the family b) the emotional economies of entitlement, obligation and gratitude that constrain and facilitate resistance to traditional expectations and authority in the family c) how women and men utilize covert and overt forms of resistance to challenge these traditions, especially across generations and d) finally how class, interpretations of Islam and culture mediates the strategies available to women and men as they try to adapt to the changing opportunities for women outside the home. We also analyze what role experiences of women’s education and employment have in these resistances and strategies for both men and women. Our paper provides a deeper understanding to how gender relations are shifting and being renegotiated in the face of larger structural changes in South Asian Muslim societies, especially in relation to changing women’s opportunities in education and employment.