Regulated Independence: Female Students Living in Hostels in
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Research Report Series
Research Report No. 5
Regulated Independence Female Students Living in Hostels
in Central Gujarat, India
National Institute of Advanced Studies
Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research University of Amsterdam
REGULATED INDEPENDENCE FEMALE STUDENTS LIVING IN HOSTELS
IN CENTRAL GUJARAT, INDIA
ProGlo Research Report No. 5
This research report is a slightly revised version of the authors Bachelor thesis in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, submitted to the College of Social Sciences, University of Amsterdam, in October 2012.
Copyright: NIAS and AISSR
No part of the paper can be published, reprinted or reproduced in any form without permission.
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, and
Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Jgers, Fieke. 2013. Regulated Independence: Female Students Living in Hostels in Central Gujarat, India. Provincial Globalisation Research Report No. 5. Bangalore: National Institute of Advanced Studies and Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research.
Young female students in Vidyanagar, India, are subjected to new living conditions. They moved away
from their family homes for study purposes and are now living independently. The level of social control
decreases in the absence of close family members, which offers these youngsters the possibility to act
independently. Their hometown-based parents still manage, however, to impose restraining regulations
on their daughters. They do so through various channels, which include their social network in
Vidyanagar and the use of modern communication technology. At the same time, these young women are
subjected to the social control of their new community: the Vidyanagar community. Deviant behaviour
can have severe, long-term consequences for the reputation of both students and their families. However,
in this temporary phase of independence, the young women secretively act upon their personal interest, in
the realisation that they will have to conform to the dictates of yet another set of family members after
graduation, their future in-laws.
This bachelor thesis is based on research conducted in Vidyanagar, India. In January and February 2012, I
resided in Vidyanagar with two bachelor-level co-students and one master-level student.
This research is linked to a larger research programme - Provincial Globalisation: The Impact of Reverse
Transnational Flows in Indias Regional Towns, which is coordinated by Professor Carol Upadhya of the
National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore and Professor Mario Rutten of the Amsterdam
Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Prof. Dr. Mario Rutten, who has guided,
supported and encouraged me during the process of my research. I would not have had this opportunity
that has enriched my education, without him.
Furthermore, I want to thank the Provincial Globalisation Research Team and the people from the Sardar
Patel University for giving me the opportunity to conduct this research. Particular gratitude goes out to
the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dr. Harish Padh of the Sardar Patel University, Mr. Tushar Majmudar, and
Prof. Amrapali Merchant for her guidance during my fieldwork period. This experience has taught me
many useful lessons from which I will highly benefit in my future studies and thereafter.
Amsterdam, October 2012
Here we are free as birds, we can be lively and outgoing and spend our time with
friends. At home we have a different role. There we have the responsibility to take
care of others and obey our parents, there we always need to adjust (Vamil1
This thesis explores the possibilities of young Indian women to increase their independence from
restrictive social control by moving within India. In the following literature review I will further outline the
, 22 years).
The young woman in the quote stated above, Vamil, reflects on her living conditions in the university
town Vidyanagar, Gujarat. I had met Vamil a few days earlier when she agreed to do an interview with
me. She invited me to come to her room in the girls-hostel after curfew. The sun had just set, the doors
of the hostel were locked and the atmosphere inside was very lively. The young women walked in and out
of each others rooms and yelled across the courtyard to get the attention of their friends on different
Vamil is one of the youngsters who have moved away from their hometown to study at the Sardar Patel
University in Vidyanagar. For some of the young women discussed in this thesis, Vidyanagar is
geographically located over a thousand kilometres away from their hometown. It is their first experience
of living independently, apart from their family. This thesis explores the opportunities, consequences and
complexities of this new living environment, as experienced by these female students.
Existing literature on the movement of individuals tends to focus on the international migration of people
from developing countries to developed countries. In this debate, scholars examine the motivations of
people to move abroad in search for better economic opportunities, modern lifestyles or in order to
escape the restrictive social environment in their home region. After their movement, migrants stay
connected with their home communities and are therefore seen as the nodes through which remittances
and ideas flow across nation-borders (Levitt, Glick Schiller 2004: 1009). As migrants become part of both
societies at the same time, scholars argue that migration can have a transformative influence on both
In these studies many facets of international migration are discussed. However, with the existing emphasis
on migratory flows between different nation-states, the movement within nation-states is sometimes
overlooked. The debate seems to indicate that economic progress and social improvement is only
possible if people physically cross the border of their home country. This view, however, entails the risk
of portraying these migrants home country as a homogeneous unity with little opportunities for progress.
1 To ensure the anonymity of the respondents, the names of my informants have been changed in this thesis.
dominant debate on the influence of international migration on the country of origin, which I will
illustrate by introducing a few studies of both youngsters who migrated abroad and those who stayed in
their home country. To understand the implications that moving out of the family home has on the lives
of young Indian women, I will also closely look at the position of women within Indian society and family
structures. Following the literature review, more information is presented about the informants, the
young female students, and the research setting Vallabh Vidyanagar. Then, the research methodology is
described, discussing the methods and strategies I used and the methodological problems I encountered
during my fieldwork period. In the three following sections an analysis is given of the empirical data I
obtained during the research in Vidyanagar.
To understand the complexities of international migration, scholars in recent years have focused on
the ongoing and continuing ways in which current-day immigrants construct and reconstruct their
simultaneous embeddedness in more than one society (Glick Schiller et al. 1995: 48). They argue that
migrants are situated in a transnational social field in which they link the home society with the receiving
country. In this point of view, migrants have become the nodes through which information, resources,
and identities flow across nation-borders, by the intensive connectedness they uphold with their
hometown community (Levitt, Glick Schiller 2004: 1009). Money, goods and ideas are exchanged
between the country of origin and the receiving country, which can lead to a rearrangement of local
hierarchy, gender relations and consumer habits in the home society (Vertovec 2004: 985). 2
The research of Schielke and the larger migration debate in general, merely focuses on economic reasons
for men to migrate. Less attention has been paid to the role of women in migration flows and their social
motives behind international movement. One of the studies offering insights into the motives of women
Transformative influence of migration on the social structure of the homeland society is a topic discussed
thoroughly by William Kandel and Douglas S. Massey (2002). They argue that if migratory behaviour
extends throughout a community, it increasingly enters the calculus of conscious choice and eventually
becomes normative, resulting in a culture of migration (Kandel