ABSTRACT

There was no singular experience of being a woman in Zakir Nagar. From the highly-educated, professional woman residing in the older, more established part of Zakir Nagar to her domestic servant living in the slums behind the neighbourhood, there was a range of social locations occupied by the women I spoke with, which were continuously shifting according to context. Neither were all these women uniformly ‘oppressed’, nor could they be described as ‘liberated’.1 The actual operation of gender hierarchies was far more complex and related to women’s various and varying subject positions. What was common, however, was a precariousness of position, which depended on related others, especially one’s family, husband and in-laws as well as one’s own social position. Women’s narratives were woven through with stories of negotiation, struggle, acceptance, and everyday forms of resistance to gender inequalities. The ways women narrated their relative freedom or constraint depended on how they were positioned socially, in terms of their migration history, age, marital status, economic position, family background, religious identification, and simply their own personalities.