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

    Fieke Jgers

    January 2013

    National Institute of Advanced Studies

    Bangalore, India

    Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research University of Amsterdam



    ProGlo Research Report No. 5

    Fieke Jgers

    January 2013

    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.

    Published by:

    National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, and

    Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

    Bibliographic information:

    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.

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    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.

    Fieke Jgers,

    Amsterdam, October 2012

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    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.

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    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.

  • 4


    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