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Keeping rice in the pot: Women and work in an Indonesian transmigration settlement

Dawson, Gaynor (1999) Keeping rice in the pot: Women and work in an Indonesian transmigration settlement. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study analyses the interplay between women's subsistence, domestic, childcare, community and income earning work in an Indonesian transmigration settlement. The context of the analysis is, on one hand, the complex ways in which gender relationships are constituted and reconstituted within the household and in wider society; and, on the other hand, the ways in which women negotiate, accommodate and resist the organising power of these gender relations in their everyday lives.

The research was undertaken in a transmigration settlement in an upland region of Riau province. While the settlement is the site of concentrated development planning by the state, inappropriate strategies, unsuitable agricultural conditions, inadequate infrastructure, lack of initial capital, and so on, mean that the settlers remain subsistence-oriented and many struggle to survive. In these economically marginal agricultural conditions, women's work is critical to their households and also to the local and regional social and economic processes. Their work as subsistence producers, for the market, and for wages in agriculture and elsewhere, contributes directly to their households’ survival. Their skills are also vital in raising children, in the management, organisation and conservation of domestic resources and in cultivating and maintaining the social networks which are an important safety net in times of crisis. While women perform these duties, men are freed from the everyday burden of domestic concerns. Their privileges and authority over women and children are sanctioned through their formally recognised positions as heads of household and in their domination of the public sphere.

The study integrates narratives and qualitative data with quantitative surveys to explore the multi-dimensionality, overlapping, fragmented and unrelenting nature of women's work, and the ways in which women must juggle their tasks and obligations. It highlights the implications for women of the changing composition and structure of households throughout the family life cycle and in the frequent temporary outmigration of married men in search of a better livelihood. The analysis points to the complexity of women's work and responsibilities within diverse household structures which are not recognised or accommodated in the conventional ways in which state-directed development is implemented.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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