Navigating Gender Using Transportation: Theme and Variations in Urban India


Campbell, Morgan Frances. 2018. “Navigating Gender Using Transportation: Theme and Variations in Urban India.” PhD Diss., New Jersey: School of Graduate Studies, Rutgers University.

Author: Morgan Frances Campbell


Starting with the knowledge of overt patriarchal structures and gender norms that affect when, where, and why women in urban India travel in public, this dissertation is an inquiry into how different groups of working women literally navigate gender and class positions while using various transportation modes. The geographies of Bengaluru and Delhi were chosen for the significant physical and social transformations that reflect realities of globalization, conflicting political ideologies, internal migration, and rapid urbanization. These changes are embedded within slick metro systems, the millions of new car owners, company provided transportation for employees of multinationals, and failing public bus systems. They are transcribed onto the bodies of urban women in which a tension between mobility in a literal sense and immobility with respect to gender norms and socio-economic hierarchies constantly plays out. The project investigates the daily mobility practices of four populations of working women: women in Bengaluru’s IT sector, young, unmarried women staying in Delhi’s working women’s hostels, women working in Delhi’s retail sector, and women bus conductors in Bengaluru. A mixed methods approach of surveying, interviewing, and participant observation is utilized in order to understand what modes these women use for commuting in the city and why these modes are chosen. The primary aim is to locate the influence gender and class has on these commuting decisions. Rooted in Right to the City activism, social exclusion research, and feminist epistemologies, this project is motivated by the reality that transportation decisions for women are inherently gendered, especially in respect to concern for personal security. At the same time, transportation mobility cannot be reduced to gender alone. Urban women do not constitute a cohesive user category and policies that improve the mobility of one group can exacerbate socio-economic inequalities of others. To illustrate this, a comparative analysis is used. However, by focusing on qualitative evidence, the project locates individual agency within these women, the various ways in which women navigate through and around physical and social structures that restrict women’s mobility. To conclude, this dissertation argues that the act of commuting in the city is one salient and important way in which a renegotiation of gender norms and class positions can be achieved.


Topics: Class, Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Infrastructure, Information & Communication Technologies, Transportation Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2018

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