When Women Come First: Gender and Class in Transnational Migration

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University of California Press, Jul 18, 2005 - Social Science - 296 pages
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With a subtle yet penetrating understanding of the intricate interplay of gender, race, and class, Sheba George examines an unusual immigration pattern to analyze what happens when women who migrate before men become the breadwinners in the family. Focusing on a group of female nurses who moved from India to the United States before their husbands, she shows that this story of economic mobility and professional achievement conceals underlying conditions of upheaval not only in the families and immigrant community but also in the sending community in India. This richly textured and impeccably researched study deftly illustrates the complex reconfigurations of gender and class relations concealed behind a quintessential American success story.

When Women Come First explains how men who lost social status in the immigration process attempted to reclaim ground by creating new roles for themselves in their church. Ironically, they were stigmatized by other upper class immigrants as men who needed to "play in the church" because the "nurses were the bosses" in their homes. At the same time, the nurses were stigmatized as lower class, sexually loose women with too much independence. George's absorbing story of how these women and men negotiate this complicated network provides a groundbreaking perspective on the shifting interactions of two nations and two cultures.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 Contradictions of Gender When Women Immigrate First
19
Nursing Womens Networks and Men Tied to a Stake
39
Redoing Gender in Immigrant Households
77
Creating Little Kerala and the Paradox of Men Who Play in the Church
118
The JanusFaced Production of an Immigrant Community
158
6 Conclusions
197
Interview Participants by Household Type
213
Types of Nursing Jobs
218
Transnational Organizational Structure of the Indian Orthodox Church
220
Notes
225
References
237
Index
251
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About the author (2005)

Sheba Mariam George is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Assistant Professor at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. She is coauthor of Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections, and Imaginations in a Postmodern World (California, 2000).

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