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Domestic Goddesses and Double Shifts: Bengali Married Women’s negotiation of Professional and Domestic Labour


· Sanhita Chatterjee Department of Sociology, University of Essex (Colchester, United Kingdom)


07/27 | 11:40-12:00 UTC+2/CEST


This paper will explore the experiences of married women in neoliberal India, who have chosen to negotiate the challenge of maintaining their professional identity and being a “domestic goddess”. Drawing upon in depth interviews with women from Kolkata’s Bhadralok class - a historically as well as culturally dominant class in the region - this paper analyses their experiences of balancing their careers outside the home and their domestic responsibilities within the patrilineal family structure. The paper argues that the majority of these women work a “double shift” and are typically engaged in a conflict between paid professional labour and unpaid emotional labour. I analyse their views regarding their roles as wives (and often mothers) within their marital home (husband’s extended household) and the wider impact that their domestic responsibilities have on their professional identities. My initial findings are that, under the traditional pressures of adjusting in a patrilineal family structure and the more contemporary pressures of living in an increasingly consumerist society, married women’s choices are restricted when they enter their husband’s family. In most of these cases there lies a trade-off between forgoing their career progress and satisfying the demands of the household. As a result they take on a “double shift” as the uneasy trade-off for acquiring the status of a “domestic goddess” within their new marital household.

Key words: Emotional labour, double shift, unpaid work, Bhadralok, patrilineal structure, choice