Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationNew School U.
Grant numberGr. 9674
Approve DateApril 19, 2018
Project TitleKamran, Sidra, New School U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Infrastructures of Intimacy: The Social Lives of Working-Class Women in Urban Pakistan,' supervised by Dr. Rachel Sherman
SIDRA KAMRAN, then a graduate student at New School University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2018 to aid research on ‘Infrastructures of Intimacy: The Social Lives of Working-Class Women in Urban Pakistan,’ supervised by Dr. Rachel Sherman. This research explores how working-class retail and beauty workers’ participation in the new interactive service economy produces emergent infrastructures of social and economic relations among women in Karachi. Drawing on participant observation in two workplaces, Meena Bazaar and a contemporary department store, and interviews with beauty and retail workers and managers, it explores non-kin relations among women and emerging norms of gender and sexuality. In the absence of support from the state and male head of household, these workers form complex social ties with their co-workers that are simultaneously: 1) economic and intimate; and 2) passionate yet fleeting. These contradictory social ties are shaped by the classed and gendered exigencies of urban life, managerial regimes, and cultural and patriarchal norms. Retail and beauty workers frequently experience stigma due to the moral, social, and physical taint associated with their occupations and because they transgress gender norms by leaving their homes to work. Workers and managers resist this stigma by drawing distinctions between various types of workers and cultivating an aspiration towards respectable femininity which, in turn, hinders the proliferation of non-kin ties among women. This research contributes to the literature on class, gender, space, intimacy, and labor.