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Title: Boundaries of respectability : new women of Bangladesh
Author: Hussein, Nazia
ISNI:       0000 0004 5915 483X
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis places respectable femininity at the centre of the construction and performance of new womanhood among affluent middle-class women of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Using qualitative research methods, combining audio-visual materials, focus group discussion and multiple in depth interviews, I examine the complex and heterogeneous constructions of new womenhoods in relation to women’s negotiations with public and private sphere roles and Bangladeshi norms of female propriety. My conceptual framework facilitates analysis of the everyday interactional negotiations of new women in relation to their gendered and classed practices of respectable femininity, and the potential for this boundary work to enhance their agency. My analysis illuminates three aspects of the dialogical nature of respectable femininity and new womanhood. First, new women are part of the neoliberal affluent middle class and they construct their class identity as a status group, claiming inter-class and intraclass distinction from other women. Their claims to distinction rest on their levels of higher education, types of paid employment and exposure to transnational lifestyles, alongside their gendered, classed and culturally attuned selfhood performed through their ‘smart’ aesthetic practices, 50-50 work home life balance and female individualism. Secondly, new womanhood is legitimized by alternative and multiple practices of respectability, varying according to women’s age, stage of life, profession, household setting and experience of living in western countries. Finally, as new women forge alternative forms of respectability theirs is not a straightforward abandonment of old structures of respectability; rather they conform to, negotiate and potentially transgress normative conceptions of middle-class respectable femininity, substituting, concealing, or legitimizing particular practices in particular fields. Nonetheless, these processes enable them to practice increased autonomy and agency, and while their gains are vested in the self, rather than a wider feminist politics, they have the potential to positively influence the terrain of possibilities for other Bangladeshi women. Overall, my thesis shifts the focus of respectability research in South Asia from exploring the binary of respectable and unrespectable practices to evaluating how women make and remake their respectable status and class privilege in neoliberal Bangladesh, and the implications for gender relations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman