From indentureship to transnationalism : professional Indian women in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
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The study details the transnational migrations of a sample of professional Indian women from Durban, KwaZulu Natal within the context of their historical transition from indentureship to transnationalism, and their changing social identities. The study makes a contribution towards contemporary interest in the subject of gender and migration in the 21st century. As the Indian and Chinese diasporas expand in size through knowledge workers and investments their increased visibility in countries throughout the world has led to a commensurate level of interest in resettlement and identity building. This dissertation deals specifically with Indian women in the South African diaspora and their transnational links with first world nations, particularly the United Kingdom. Chapter One is a brief history of Indian women in South Africa since their arrival as indentured labourers in 1860. It provides glimpses into their roles as mothers, wives and daughters in the patriarchal Indian household and their eventual transition into the professions. Chapter Two problematizes migration research in South Africa based on the inadequacy of national databases, specifically with regard to the invisibility of racial, gendered and occupational data pertinent to the context of international skills and professional migration. Chapters Three and Four deal with the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the fieldwork conducted as well as the research experiences and challenges of the anthropologist. Chapter Five, Six and Seven form the core ethnographic analysis of the women transnationals as single, married, divorced and widowed professionals. The rising number of Indian women transnationals of varying professional backgrounds, marital statuses and age groups leaving Durban since 1994 has led to the rapid transformation of the conservative Indian household. Their migration to first world destinations overseas signifies the impact of globalizing forces on the demand for professional skills from developing nations such as South Africa, as well as the increasing desire of the women to seek security, career advancement and independence in social spaces that are less repressive and more financially rewarding. Chapter Eight concludes the study by showing how the women are agents in their own emancipation and how identities within the duality of transnational migration have become a fluctuating terrain of negotiation and reconfiguration in their personal relationships and social practices.