Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Carole McGranahan

Second Advisor

Srimati Basu

Third Advisor

Alison Cool

Fourth Advisor

Carla Jones

Fifth Advisor

Dennis McGilvray

Abstract

In Bangalore, women who work in information technology (IT) and other white-collar professions are part of a new generation of middle-class Indian women who expect to work. Beyond previous narratives of work as a “backup” in case a normative married life is not possible, these women now consider work important for their self-confidence and identity. The opportunity to work is also tied to India’s economic liberalization and ideas about what constitutes a good life as compared to the past, including a more expansive social life, more varied knowledge about the world, more gender equality at work and home, and a different kind of marriage. However, from the demands of work putting stress on families and relationships to sexism that seems ever more entrenched, the promise of work often becomes disappointment. At work, women feel exploited, yet when they leave or go part time they experience a painful loss of self. This dissertation draws on fieldwork in Bangalore with middle-class women from three generations to examine the effects of new regimes of work on women’s lives and senses of identity. As elsewhere, global neoliberal reconfigurations of work in Bangalore are both exploitive and essential in constructing the self. However, using a feminist perspective, this project argues that these pressures map onto existing gendered expectations, so when women in Bangalore attempt to construct a happy life their choices are not be as expansive as they had hoped, while the responsibility for failure falls on their shoulders. Using temporality as a way to frame these anxieties, I find that the multiple identities women inhabit in the course of their daily lives have gendered and temporal constraints, creating a state of vulnerability I term “temporal liminality.” These constraints are especially apparent when women combine their kinship identities with those in global capitalist workplaces, in that women must contend with social and personal ideas about the past and future, ideas about life course, and the value and use of their time on a daily basis, questions that bring gendered morality to bear on time itself.

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