Gendered Technologies of Power: Experiencing and Unmaking Borderscapes in South Asia


Across South Asia, women migrate for employment within their home countries, within the region, and to more distant destination countries. Despite regular and ongoing transit, they are subject to restrictions on their mobility. How do migrant women workers confront and resist these restrictions? This question calls for an analytical approach that considers both the nature of the restrictive forces they confront and the resistance strategies they bring to bear. Scholarship on governmentality traces how nation states, as sovereigns, deploy a dual system of thought and management to exert control over populations and the nations they inhabit. Gendered migration governance at the legal and policy level maps one of many forces that restrict women’s mobility across the region. Within South Asia, social control over women is informed by not only legal, but also political, cultural, and ideological discourses that are anchored in patriarchal social systems. Women workers migrate through varied “borderscapes,” landscapes traversed by competing discourses and practices that seek to define parameters of mobility (Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2007). Based on fieldwork conducted between October 2015 and July 2016, this paper considers how local, national, and regional networks of migrant women in South Asia circumvent restrictive policies and resist patriarchal binaries. Examining their modes of resistance, this study lends critical insight into how gendered technologies of power are experienced and unmade.

About the Author

Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee is a lawyer and Ph.D. Student in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at Berkeley Law. Shikha earned her JD and Certificate in Global Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her research and writing takes an interdisciplinary and transnational perspective in understanding the capacity and limitations of the law to address systematic violence; and the impact of imbalanced economic growth on labor, migration and variegated citizenship. Shikha’s work is informed by more than a decade of experience working with grassroots campaigns and civil society organizations in the U.S. and South Asia, using legal, media and community organizing approaches.