Accepted Paper:

Transference or transformation? Traditional and transmuted gender roles  
Nilufar Ahmed (St. George’s, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

The paper will examine women’s roles and how roles have changed with migration and explore identities of first-generation women who migrated from Bangladesh and second-generation Bangladeshis, who whilst not having migrated, negotiate sometimes conflicting identities and continue to be entangled within the webs of transnational identities and allegiances.

Paper long abstract:

Studies on migration have frequently understated gender tending to focus predominantly on men, with studies on women who migrate concentrating on economic migrants. Bangladeshi women have been especially neglected in the literature on migration. The few oral histories examining the experiences of Bangladeshi migrants have focused exclusively on men, with Bangladeshi women simply an addendum to the experiences of their spouses when they join them for family reunification, with scant or no attention given to their personal journeys and adjustments.

This paper will be drawn from findings of a two-year study on the lives of first generation Bangladeshi women, aged 35-55 years, who migrated from the Sylhet district of Bangladesh to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets between the 1970s-1990s, and younger British-born second generation Bangladeshi women.

The paper will explore the impact of migration on the lives of women and examine how roles and responsibilities have undergone change with the transition from rural to urban settings. It will also investigate the transnational links between migrants and their homeland, and the relationship between this cohort of women and second-generation Bangladeshi women to consider changes in roles and identity.

By examining the roles that women perform within the household and how these roles have undergone change with marriage and migration, the fulfilment of typical gender roles will be discussed. Evidence from the study shows a heightened masculinisation of roles that women perform post-migration, for some this was problematic and did not fit in with their perceptions of the ideal roles for women. The impact of role fulfilment/non-fulfilment on attainment of self-esteem and reported life satisfaction will be discussed as will the changes in identity that occur.

This paper will consider the roles that women perform and to what degree those roles have undergone change, and explore the fluid nature of identities of both first generation women who migrated from Bangladesh to London and second generation, British-born Bangladeshis, who whilst not having migrated, negotiate sometimes conflicting identities (British/ Muslim/ Bangladeshi/ Asian), and continue to be entangled within the webs of transnational identities and allegiances.

Panel IW04
Diaspora and migration