Ruwanpura, Kanchana N.
Separating spaces? Ethno-gendering social networks
[in special issue: The British Association for South Asian Studies]
Contemporary South Asia, 16, (4), . (doi:10.1080/09584930802472764).
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The ways in which gendered processes of identity construction have been deployed in formal spaces, such as work and education, have been closely examined by feminist and postcolonial theorists. They have highlighted the need to consider the ways in which historical and socio-political contours mark women's subjectivity in these spaces. There is less work done on the ways in which ethno-nationalist (read: patriarchal) discursive strategies permeate across ethnic communities to configure everyday cultural practices in informal spaces. Using fieldwork done in eastern Sri Lanka during a one-year period (1998-99) and with follow up study during January-April 2004, this paper foregrounds the material and social spaces, namely networks, within which women exercise their everyday agency. I focus on women's narratives to show how networks are simultaneously supportive and oppressive because of ethno-nationalist practices produced in and through these informal spaces. Since the spatiality of networks perform both a private sphere activity, namely caring work, and yet control and monitor women's behaviour, a marker generally associated with the public sphere, I argue that networks located in a denaturalized and historically specific context may help blur the binary positioning that has been a hallmark of modernist thinking.
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