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Part 1:

Unscripting the Home: Women Making Space in the City

Thesis Dissertation 2019-20 (B.Arch Undergrad Project)

Introduction:

How do women make home in the city? An increased migration of women has been observed in the recent past within the country, especially to cities. It’s crucial to understand how women make home in the city as gender forces us to look at the home space very differently. It has deep implications on our individualities and the way we interact with space. How does the gender role of being a woman and its subsequent social scripting affect the way women go through home-making processes? Through the fieldwork, I mapped various kinds of places and social structures that women face, when they come to the city. The aim is to understand what kind of conditioning and imaginations women have when they venture out through personal and vulnerable conversations. How do they challenge these historicized gender roles and limitations of patriarchy to gain agency and claim space? 

Research Methods: Interviews

The interviews are conducted in the form of intimate conversations that developed over time, over many meals with the interviewees. The conversations were documented in Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness method to unravel the most subconscious and vulnerable experiences. 

Findings: 

The first argument of the thesis is that there is a relationship between gender roles and home-making. This is explained through various comparative analysis of both men and women’s experiences in home-making (readings and interviews).

 

For the man, interactions happen outside the confines of the home. For women, the domain of the home is crucial—for privacy, her individual and community life, and even for her entrepreneurial needs. As the everyday life and chores related to the household remain attached to women’s identities, they find ways of navigating the spaces differently.

 

The second argument is that there is a relationship between women, home-making, and the city. The need for women to build a home in the city stems from the fact that it opens up avenues that were previously inaccessible to them. Historically, women have been restricted to certain zones of access. In towns and provincial cities, the women are not able to freely move out of their homes or within their homes. Hence, home-making particularly in city space or the urban areas provides an opportunity to expand their zone of access, saving themselves from long-term patriarchal limitations and restrictions.

The third argument is that there are additional layers to home-making owing to the gender role of being women. These additional hurdles arise only when women try to make home. There is no set precedent for women to know about home-making in the city owing to their social scripts. The gender roles prescribe no such knowledge. Performativity theory by Judith Butler says that gender is not something one is, it is something one does, a “doing” rather than a “being”. The social script is always pre-determined. However, performativity takes away a certain amount of agency and imagination that creates desires of other identities. As a response women learn abstract and concrete actions (Merleau- Ponty’s theories on movements). These every day practices become crucial in home-making to move past the unconscious confusions experienced at first.

The fourth argument is that space-making through home-making for women is a long and tedious process. A gendered space like a Tapri or an alcohol shop is fractured when a woman is making a purchase, because now she has a home where she can partake in these activities that were otherwise forbidden. The hostel room becomes a space of transgressions and breaking rules in the night.

The fifth argument is that women making homes are able to create fractures/hideouts in patriarchal spaces. Finally, home-making in a city becomes a means of liberation for women. 

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