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Title: Gendered coal struggles at the margins
Author: Behzadi, Negar Elodie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7654 4792
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis delves into the working lives of men, women and children in one village in Northern Tajikistan to unravel the way gendered geographies of exclusion have been produced/reproduced and transformed in a context of politico/economic and ecological change in the post-Soviet Muslim space. I draw on eight months of ethnographic work in the village of Kante, supplemented with life histories gathered during research in other semi-urban and rural areas in Tajikistan. In the post-Soviet extractive landscape of Kante, informal coalmining developed alongside male out-migration and the setting up of a Sino-Tajik mine after the fall of the Soviet Union. Work and resources are organized along gendered and generational lines, relegating the socially weaker groups to the most undesirable environments, and highlighting gendered and generational norms that make such exclusions possible. This thesis is guided by three research questions: first, why would women and men who experienced a certain degree of gender equality during the Soviet times accept and transmit gendered oppressive norms to the younger generations? Second, to what extent has the transformation of work practices impacted the process of gendered subjectification in Tajikistan? Finally, how do the broader resource struggles that have emerged with the start of the neoliberal global era also impact the gender subjectification process in Tajikistan? In answering these questions, this thesis first investigates post-Soviet gendered transformations in the Muslim South. It is situated as an academic and political project aimed at building alternative readings of gender and Muslimness in the world. Here, I challenge assumptions about Islam and the idea of an Islamic revival since the fall of the Soviet Union as the main causes of women's oppression and the retraditionalization of the Tajik society. Instead, I argue that the cultural, religious, and what constitutes the 'traditional' is never fixed, but grounded in history, and always entangled, transformed, shaped by, as well as mobilized in the wake of broader politico-economic/ecological changes, and their local manifestations through the everyday work and resource struggles people engage with. I develop this argument by building a feminist postcolonial geography reading of work and resource struggles in the (post)Soviet Muslim South, which I then expand upon in four articles. The first article examines the project of women's emancipation through work in Tajikistan, making visible the production of gendered and ethnic hierarchies through an examination of discourses on, and material experiences of, work during the Soviet past. The second article focuses on changing masculinities with broader and localized politico-ecological post-Soviet changes, transforming work and resource struggles, and their impact on women's exclusion. The third article delves into women miners' most intimate experiences of exclusion and marginalization by focusing on their abject/dirty work in mines. Finally, the last article focuses on questions of child labor and the intergenerational retransmission and renegotiation of gendered norms. By exploring these four themes, this thesis builds a holistic approach to the gender subjectification process in the post-Soviet Muslim South, and more generally in the Muslim South and makes three main contributions. It first expands on scholarship on gendered transformations in Central Asia, by complicating understandings of gender, generation, tradition and Muslimness in this context. Second, it contributes to broader feminist geographical literature on Muslim identities by - on one hand, provincializing research and focusing on the specificities of politico-ecological changes in the poorest countries of the Muslim Global South; and on the other hand, conceptualizing spatialized intersectionalities and agencies. Finally, this research contributes to feminist labor geography and feminist political ecology literature by reiterating the importance of exploring embodied gendered work and resource struggles as a window onto broader gendered exclusions.
Supervisor: Daley, Patricia ; Pallot, Judith Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council ; Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available