New Delhi saw a rapid increase of educational and employment opportunities (especially the increase in private educational institutions and the retail sector of global brands) after India adopted the 1991 economic liberalization reforms; owing to which the city attracted a substantial number of young migrants from across the country. This ... (Show more)
New Delhi saw a rapid increase of educational and employment opportunities (especially the increase in private educational institutions and the retail sector of global brands) after India adopted the 1991 economic liberalization reforms; owing to which the city attracted a substantial number of young migrants from across the country. This paper then will study the subjectivities of one such migrant community. It seeks to understand the racial subjectivities of migrant women from the Northeastern region of India (NER), who come to New Delhi in search of employment and higher education. Using an intersectional approach (Yural Davis and Anthias 1992:12), the paper seeks to understand if gender, race and class intersect to mediate their access to employment and higher education in New Delhi. I look at women who identify their point of origin as one of the eight states of Northeast India and whose facial features resemble that of the people of various Himalayan countries like Tibet and Nepal; by virtue of which they are considered racially different from the rest of the Indian population. Owing to the fact that they have different physiognomic features they are not considered ‘Indian’ enough. The paper is based on observations deduced from in-depth ethnographic work conducted in New Delhi. The experiences of the migrant women who (look different) are employed in sales positions in the retail outlets of H&M and Zara and the young women from the who seek admission in the various undergraduate colleges of New Delhi; form the fulcrum of the paper. These women who have migrated from a region which has been marred by decades of conflict and insurgency; then how do they fulfil their aspirations and dreams in a city where they live cheek by jowl with other migrants from other parts of the country?
From an in-depth literature survey, it is revealed that the migrant women from the region face a very particular and unique form of racial discrimination within India, which starts from directing racial abuses at the women who have distinctive physiognomic features. This form of racial discrimination may then be extended to behaviourally stereotype them as ‘docile’ and ‘obedient’ by the people who do not look like them within New Delhi. Therefore, the study seeks to understand if racialization of women from the region in New Delhi, is a combination of both biological as well as cultural racism. (Visweswaran 2001; Balibar and Wallerstein 1991). (Show less)