Seasonal masculinities: seasonal labor migration and masculinities in rural western India

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In this research article, I study seasonal labor migration in rural western India to understand gender negotiations in the course of labor migration. Based on qualitative research conducted in six villages in rural Maharashtra state in Western India during the early Kharif cropping season in 2014 and during Kharif and Rabi cropping seasons in 2015–16, I examine gendered labor in migrant home communities and at various rural and urban employment destinations, the relationship of labor to the social construction of masculinities, and gender negotiations across space. I show that in their home communities, the politics of resistance of returnee laborers can be understood by examining how returnee men deploy ‘protest masculinities’ to subvert claims on their body and labor by elite men who have historically been in a dominant relationship with the laborers. Yet, these protest masculinities are buttressed by the continued exploitation of women’s labor. I also show the flexibility of masculinities. More broadly, I show that migrant destinations themselves are gendered spaces that are constructed by the active consensual work of women and male migrants and employers alike. Second, seasonal migrants enter migration cycles from rural spaces that are gendered, both in production and social reproduction. I find that rural workplaces are the preferred choice of destination for migrant women; a choice that migrant men find reasonable. This is so because rural destinations are already gendered as spaces conducive for social reproduction and discursively constructed in the same terms as the idealized woman subject.




Rai, P. (2020). Seasonal masculinities: seasonal labor migration and masculinities in rural western India. Gender, Place and Culture, 27(2), 261–280.

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