Dissertation Abstracts

Bargaining with Patriarchy: A study of young married women in rural Sindh, Pakistan

Author: Agha, Nadia , khan.ag@hotmail.com
Department: Centre for Women's Studies
University: York, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Professor Stevi Jackson
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Patriarchy , Kinship , Culture , Division of labour
Areas of Research: Women in Society , Theory


The thesis investigates how young married women in rural Sindh commonly negotiate with patriarchy. I set out to elaborate the kinship system in rural Sindh in order to understand women's lives in different phases such as puberty, marriage and motherhood. A theoretical framework informed by Deniz Kandiyoti's (1988) concept of ‘the patriarchal bargain’ supported by Sylvia Walby's (1990, 2011) notion of ‘private patriarchy’ or ‘private gender regime’ is utilized to explore women's bargaining strategies. I conducted ethnographic field work which included 30 in-depth interviews and three focus group discussions, between June and September of 2012, with married women aged between 15-30 years in six different villages of Khairpur, Sindh. Based on their accounts and observation of village life, I show how consanguineous marriages, gendered division of labour and the extended family system have negative consequences on women. Their situation is further exacerbated by low level of education and early marriages. The study reveals the strong relationship between poverty and the perpetuation of patriarchy; all the cultural practices that contribute to women’s subordination are designed to counter social insecurity. The strategies that women employ for their survival centre on improving their esteem before their family members such as doing household tasks well. These conditions are usually seen as evidence of women’s subordination, but they are also actively adopted strategies for survival where accommodation to patriarchy is what wins them approval. They hope to have sons in order to advance their position as a mother and then mother in law. I conclude that women’s life-long struggle is in fact a technique of negotiating with patriarchy, and, in so doing, they not only internalize the culture which rests on their subordination but also reproduce it in older age in exercising power by oppressing other junior women.