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Accepted Paper:

Mobility and Imaginaries: Self-Making as Modern Young Women  


Sugandha Nagpal (O.P. Jindal Global University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is focused on young Dalit women from upwardly mobile families residing in Chaheru, a predominantly Dalit village in Punjab with a strong culture of migration. This paper explores the young women's narratives and practices around mobility or the aspiration to move away from the village.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the operation of mobility as an ideal and aspiration for modern spaces outside the village. In Chaheru despite the prevalence of strong mobility imaginaries linked with migration to Europe and North America and movement to urban spaces, young women's chances of moving away from the village are severely limited. This paper finds that as young women 'wait' in the village they construct plans and draw on imaginaries of the West and urban and rural spaces to construct mobile identities. In contrast to the more socially determined experiences of mobility, young women's plans reveal an image of unhindered autonomy

In interrogating the young women's interactions with mobility, at the level of imaginary and practice, this paper draws on Mahmood(2006)'s notion of agency. In applying Mahmood (2006)'s construct of agency to the young women in Chaheru, multiple dynamics of their agency emerge. At a discursive level, young women's aspiration for individualised and unconstrained forms of mobility can be read as a form of subversion of the prevailing norms, in its refusal to engage with their reality of negotiated physical movement to local urban spaces and Western countries. Moreover, at the level of practice, young women can be seen to be conforming to the social norms set by their families even as, they seek to retain access to education, migration and employment opportunities. Young women's negotiation of mobility can be located in the balancing act they perform between their aspirations for physical and cultural mobility and their family's concerns.

Panel MV19
Dalits and Social Mobility