Organized Panel Session
This paper tracks the vicissitudes of a mother and daughter relationship in Sindh, Pakistan as they negotiate their very different outlooks on the world, aspirations for themselves and one another, and resentments. Sita was an NGO worker who saw herself as having fought valiantly against her own family in her youth to make something of herself. Given her social standing as a lower-middle class Dalit Hindu woman in a small, conservative town in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, this was no mean feat. Her daughter, Kiran, insisted that her ambitious mother did not understand familial and household responsibility, or what it meant to maintain delicate relationships. She had forsaken those ties to forge ahead in her profession and build a network well removed from the family. On the other hand, Sita saw Kiran’s own choices, especially her refusal to study further or look for a job and instead enthusiastically wait for the marriage her paternal grandfather had arranged, as a betrayal. This paper, gleaned from fifteen months of close ethnographic engagement, will consider the ways in which women mediate the tensions of their status as religious minorities within family, work, and the kind of aspirations and choices they understood as ambition or lack thereof. Why do Sita and Kiran see themselves as polar opposites? How may the tensions and intimacies of a mother-daughter relationship, in the context of deep-seated casteist and religious prejudice, reveal the logics, practices, and compromises through which women mediate family, profession, and personal ambition?