Perspectives on Transmigrant Women in Indian Diaspora

Perspectives on Transmigrant Women in Indian Diaspora


Prof. Shobhita Jain, Professor of Sociology and former Director of Social Sciences,

Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi

While majority of the transmigrant women share space with men, their experiences are not necessarily similar to those of men and it would incorrect to view them as parts of commonly understood perspectives relating to male migrants from India. Processes of transmigrant women’s settling down in foreign lands were and are quite exclusive to them. Under the circumstances, transmigrant women are found not to be mute spectators and passive victims but they often exercise their agency to build mechanisms of struggling and making their own history. My take on the concept of women’s agency as referring to the capacity of individuals to act independently and make free choices is that they have engaged creatively with new surroundings as homemakers and/ or workers, along with being wives/ daughters/ sisters/ single or married. This does not of course imply that they are entirely free from structural forms of dependence and exploitation. It is always a matter of relative independence. I have opted to focus on family relationships, involving both working and non-working women. In this context, I have attempted to examine how, after marriage, transmigrant women create and maintain family relationships at a distance in the sense of both time and space. I examine transnational family as a form of living arrangement, with its characteristic transnational informal networks and ‘circuits’ of care and affection.

Instead of looking for typologies, I focus on transnational and boundary-challenging processes that take place as consequences of the movement in people, goods and ideas so evident in the experiences of transmigrant families, particularly in the context of the life cycle ritual of marriage. The micro-politics and social practices of transnationalism operate in such cases within the sphere of marriage, family and/ or household. The transnational family as a social form has its lived reality derived from material links of collective well-being among members living at a distance. In addition, it derives strength from a shared imaginary of ‘belonging’ which contains within it the past and future sustenance through references to marriages across particular time and space. 

Moving on to some points of debate, I pose questions: If we study transmigrants in Indian diaspora, where do we put the study of those migrants who return home? Should we be stickler to geographical boundaries in our studies of transmigrants? Yet another vexing issue is that of the study of the progeny of migrants of Indian origin.


Shobhita Jain is a retired Professor of Sociology and former Director of School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. At present she does consultancy work for Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), New Delhi and UNDP, Bhubaneswar.  Her research areas pertain to (i) family, marriage and kinship in India and its diaspora, (ii) tea plantations, (iii) social and cultural aspects of forestry, (iv) displacement due to development projects and (v) e-learning.  Besides her books, Shobhita Jain has published refereed articles in international and national journals and contributed to edited volumes. She has held teaching assignments in universities in India, Australia, England, Trinidad & Tobago and South Africa.



Time and Place:

Date:   Friday, Apr 11, 2014
Venue:   Room No-13, CSSS II, JNU
Address:   Room No-13, CSSS II, JNU, New Delhi
City/Twon:   New Delhi
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