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"Either Money or Manpower": Gender Inequality and Men's and Women's Unpaid Labor during Labor Migration in Nepal
"Either Money or Manpower": Gender Inequality and Men's and Women's Unpaid Labor during Labor Migration in Nepal
WhenWednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, 3:30 – 5 p.m.
Campus roomCommunications 226
Event typesAcademics, Lectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsDepartment of Sociology,
Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities,

Labor migration is a common household survival strategy in developing regions and, as a result, it is increasingly common to have families “left behind” by a migrant. What happens in a context with high gender inequality when men leave? Do customarily male spaces open up to women? What effect does this have on gender equity? This paper explores the gendered social consequences of male labor migration on the wives of migrants who stay behind through ethnographic fieldwork in rural Nepal. Specifically, I look at how women's unpaid labor changes during male absence and whether perspectives on women's roles in household and family vary across the migration absence and return. Women who remain behind from labor migration are left to take on men's unpaid labor at home, in addition to their own own tasks. The increase in labor is both a burden and also an opportunity to blur the gendered division of tasks towards a more equitable arrangement. My research addresses changing gender division in labor and the preservation of gender inequality. While women take on men's labor during male absence, it is less common for men to take on women's household labor when they return. Migration allows many men to fulfill their symbolic and gendered duties as providers, while women’s contributions via handling men’s unpaid household labor only serves to deepen the association of women with the household, rather than re-imagine their social roles beyond women's traditionally prescribed tasks. Despite this, the changes that occur due to male absence are linked with the perception that there is gender parity, even as women in Nepal describe how many aspects of their lives are constrained by gender expectations and inequalities.

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