Transnationalism and the (re) construction of gender identities amongst foreign studies of African origin at the univeristy of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban South Africa.
Muthuki, Janet Muthoni.
MetadataShow full item record
The transnational migration of students is a vast yet under-researched area with most studies focusing on skilled and unskilled foreign immigrants. The transnational experience of studying outside their home country and constant negotiations of new social and cultural environments provides students with an opportunity to either challenge or reinforce their perspectives of gender. An examination of gender in a transnational context however continues to be a much neglected domain. Gender is salient in migration because not only do gender relations facilitate or constrain both men's and women's movements but they also structure the whole migration process including practices and the construction of self. This thesis interrogates the reconstruction of gender identities by foreign students of African origin at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN hereafter) in Durban South Africa. This study aims to contribute to the fields of gender and migration by examining ways in which gender shapes migratory flows and examining how migration shapes gender relations. Through exploring the tensions that students perceive and undergo and struggle with as they bring their own cultural insights , values and practices to a new context at UKZN, I seek to highlight the complexity of their gender identities as negotiated in a transnational context. By using an interpretivist theoretical paradigm which is a qualitative approach, I highlight how the communal process of the views and perceptions of the students and my multidimensional positionality intersected to produce knowledge. I also highlight the gender relations as an important dynamic in the data collection process. The body of data reveals that men and women cite different factors as influencing their propensity to migrate namely gender role socialisation on the part of the men and education and empowerment on the part of the women. In spite of the gender differences in facilitating their migration to South Africa, both men and women display resonance in terms of choosing South Africa and UKZN in particular as a study destination showing gender to be situational. This is in light of opportunity structures in place at UKZN that are available to both men and women thus enabling the foreign African women students to take advantage of opportunities they may not have had in their home countries The study also generates critical insights about the complexities experienced by these students as a result of immersing themselves in UKZN embedded in Durban a multiracial environment which is still a much divided society. I also examine how these students perceive and interpret gender norms in South Africa and how these gender norms challenge or support conceptions of gender norms in their country of origin. The themes presented in this study reveal that gender identity construction is related to the struggle over power and social status. A significant aspect of the findings was how the students were re-interpreting and re-defining their gender roles and expectations in the transnational space. Gender roles were enacted in different ways by students to express social status, position and power. This study also interrogates how the interplay of social ranking such as gender, class, ethnicity and nationality serve to construct several versions of masculinity and femininity in the transnational space. The exploration of the students' engagement with the gender discourse highlights the dilemma based on the dialectic between modern gender roles as a result of western education and maintaining traditional gender roles as a result of cultural upbringing. The study also explores the development of hybridised gender identities within the transnational space. In the course of the study religion was highlighted as key factor in influencing the ways in which migrants renegotiate their beliefs, practices and attitudes and personal as well as social identities in the host country. The study examined how religion informed the transnational students' ethnic and gender-based identities and their experiences of social life and their appropriations of religion to form alternative identities.