Dreams of Flight: Young Dalit Women and Middle-Class Culture in Punjab

Nagpal, Sugandha (2019) Dreams of Flight: Young Dalit Women and Middle-Class Culture in Punjab. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Much of the work on lower caste communities asserts continuities in caste moralities and disadvantages, despite other forms of economic and social upliftment. Mobility is commonly conceptualized as the attainment of tangible outcomes and caste emerges as the main axis for lower caste negotiations with mobility. In contrast, the present study attempts to move beyond objective measures of mobility and explores the operation of mobility as an ideal and aspiration for modern spaces outside the village. In particular, this study examines the ways in which young women from a predominantly Ad-dharmi (upwardly mobile Dalit group in Punjab that have historically worked with leather) village in the Doaba region of Punjab create belonging and access to middle class culture and mobility.

Based on ethnographic data, collected over eleven months I seek to answer: How do young women from upwardly mobile Dalit families construct and negotiate access to middle classness? The study finds young women’s transition to middle classness is defined by their interaction with migration, education, consumption and marriage. Young women pursue different ideas of middle classness, based on their family’s economic positioning and culture. Their claims to middle class status and spaces outside the village is based on their negotiations with gender norms and cultural expectations tied to the rural and urban space. In producing mobile and respectable identities, young women give rise to new constructions of appropriate femininity and demonstrate the cultural transitions involved in mobility. At a discursive level, young women associate stereotypes attached to their caste identity with lower class and lower caste others. Thus, caste identity becomes subsumed and channelled towards the project of class mobility in discourse but caste continues to be reproduced through marriage practices.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of International Development
Depositing User: Katherine Whittaker
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2020 15:18
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2020 15:18
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/74185

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