Gendered Spaces: Craftswomen’s Stories of Self-Employment in Orissa, India
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The dissertation examines women’s capability in the intertwining of gender, craftwork and space in self-employment in the cottage industries sector (handicraft and handloom weaving) and the implications for workspace and well-being. This research is based on field research in four craft production localities in Orissa, India: Pipili, Puri, Bhubaneswar and Bargarh and explores craftswomen’s experiences and perceptions. Caught between old and new ways of labour demand and values in the commercial trade and tourist oriented crafts production, the gendered practices of women’s work in the unpaid work sphere inside becomes an important link between the private domain and public sphere of workplaces and business transactions. While increasing number of craftswomen continue to work in gendered homes, workshops and cooperative societies, balancing work, mobility, wages, and domestic responsibilities with little help from the men—kinships, officials, stakeholders—they do, however, maintain an ongoing struggle to challenge embedded gendered spatial relations, gendered practices and economic strategies within the family and in the workplaces. This research explores how consideration of a more coordinated and sustained embodiment contributes to an understanding of craftswomen’s socio-spatial relations and processes of labour marginalization in unorganised self-employment; how bargaining for workspace occurs, what shape it takes, and under what circumstances collective actions may be successful, how marginalized experiences reinforce and challenge dominant notions of women’s roles in self-employment (gender needs, economy, kinship relations, sexual division of labour, religious and commercial practices), and how do familial positions deprive women of full participation in development. Further, the research explores what individual stories inform us on how an ethically just, flexible and Indocentric value-based society may be achieved, how ideologies of religious spaces and social factors underpinning gender and labour identity in traditional craft productions (re)shape economic practices; how craftswomen challenge embedded patriarchal relations within market institutions, less regulatory institutional structures and networks of social relations at various spatial scale to negotiate protected workplaces. The theoretical and methodological shift in the Gender and Development debates within postmodernist developmental, feminist economic, and cultural geography discourses during the postcolonial years reflects a more general cultural turn across the subaltern workers’ studies—experiences on cultural and structural ideologies of economic liberalization practices—rejecting both positivists and its empiricists’ legacy and the substantive, focus on the marginalization of female labour. The clearly-grinded narrative analysis presented here is intended specifically to challenge practice approaches within development and economic geographies to show the significance of the culture of socio-spatial relations in determining and promoting marginalization of female labour and identity in self-employment and in presenting an alternative to capitalism. The narratives situate and legitimate women’s (homeworkers and self-employees) ‘embodied knowledge’ to reveal how local economic practice in Orissa establishes and maintains gendered ideologies that structure material opportunities and agencies differentially for men and women. To get an overview of the mutual embeddedness of local and global relations of capitalism in the gendered ideologies and discursive practices, the case studies and articles draw on individual narratives (14) and group discussions (205 craftswomen and 29 craftsmen) and their subjective perceptions and values towards spatial dimension of sexual division of labour, caste, access, control and well-being, paid and unpaid practices of workspaces, and institutional relations are analysed. The story of individuals is about their struggle to become successful businesswomen and highlights the interrelationship between their actions, their perceptions of work and the socio-economic spaces that they have to relate to. Craftswomen’s voices on decent work possess a determination. They have begun to speak a language of subaltern capacitation. Their subjective perceptions, values and beliefs about the domestic division of labour, cultural-specific notions of appropriate producers, ‘impurity/purity of the body’, and ‘dutiful wives’, as well as the broader social and ideological underpinnings, underlie women’s self-employment in Orissa. Craftswomen’s conviction that joint actions in cooperatives and trading should be facilitated succinctly capture the struggle of marginal women workers to overcome the sexual politics that play in the ideological creation on whose back crafts producers gain legitimacy. Their agency not only deconstructs their social world, but also for them to live their lives is to critique and unravel the day-to-day taken-for-granted sexual roles and labour processes in which they have been embedded. Narratives of craftswomen experiences reveal that self-employed women can act as role models for other women and contribute to capacitating women to undercut the private sector competitors (those who rely on clandestine labour). Apart from the local characteristics of place the success of crafts and weaving development lies in prioritizing women’s agency by organizing their own. I demonstrate capacitating women must, build on a feminist framework that is rooted in ‘Indocentric’ values and workplace ideology.
Has partsAcharya, J; Lund, R. Gendered spaces – socio-spatial relations of self-employed women in craft production, Orissa, India. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift - Norwegian Journal of Geography. 56(3): 207-218, 2002.
Acharya, J. Contending Indian religious spaces: embedding gender in temple architecture and craft carving in Orissa, India. Nordisk Samhällsgeografisk Tidskrift. 36(3): 82-106, 2003.
Acharya, J. Women’s Well-being and Gendered Practices of Labor and Workspace in Traditional Craft Productions in Orissa, India. Gender, Technology and Development. 7(3), 2003.
Acharya, J. Embodying craftswomen's workspace and well-being in Orissa, India. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift - Norwegian Journal of Geography. 57(3): 173-183, 2003.