The Impossible Return? The Post-Migration Narratives of Young Women in Rural Java

In: Asian Journal of Social Science
Juliette Koning
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In this article, I discuss how young women in a Javanese village try to incorporate the impact of their experiences as circular labour migrants in Jakarta into their rural life worlds. I try to develop a better understanding of how these young daughters combine, in their daily lives as in their aspired futures, the often quite divergent values of their "home-village" and those of their temporary urban work sphere on such issues as marriage and family life. During and after their migration experiences, these young women express that they feel caught between two worlds: between village and city; between childhood and adulthood; between expectation and reality; and between their own aspirations and what their parents expect of them. It is argued that there is a close connection between the changing context in which these young villagers live while in "the urban", and their subsequent frames of reference for managing such situations directly impinging on questions of identity. These frames of reference have become so dissimilar compared to those of their parents that tensions and conflicts between the generations arise over ideas and ideals on personal and family life. It is also argued that these generational conflicts have a gender component to themas daughters are more bound to existing local gender values (concerning marriage and motherhood) while at the same time, these migrating daughters become the agents through which certain gender ideologies are questioned. Based on fieldwork in Java and the post-migration narratives of migrating daughters, the case of these young rural women is explicated to show that gendered labour migration leads to changes in the socioeconomic and socio-cultural environments of personal, family and village life, such as the shift from intergenerational to intragenerational relationships.

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