Journal of Interdisciplinary Feminist Thought


Gender and Sexuality | Geography | International and Area Studies | Place and Environment | Tourism


Drawing from a doctoral thesis on the construction of gender in livelihoods, this paper analyzes women’s experiences of participation in a local decentralized governance body (Village Tourism Development Committee) within a State implemented community based rural tourism development program that aims at political empowerment of women and the marginalised. Building a theoretical framework located in Feminist Political Geography, this paper adds to the knowledge on the gendered nature of space by examining the unexplored role of local decentralized governance and development agencies as political space in which culturally and historically embedded gender and caste roles intersect to impact the outcome on women’s political assets. Methodologically, the article uses data collected within a feminist phenomenological framework to elaborately investigate women’s experiences of gender and caste relations in political space It is argued that women face various socio-cultural constraints that pose challenges to optimum realization of their political capacities. The constraints faced by them are gendered and casteised with a historicity of marginalization and spatial discrimination. The main argument here is that gendered construction of space presents challenges to full and meaningful participation of women in the state created local and decentralized political agency. By building a topographical understanding of women’s political participation, the paper also emphasizes the significance of scales and shows how broader structures and processes work with local ones in local space and place to impact women’s immediate political realities and experiences. It is suggested that processes like United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) guidelines, increasing international tourist in-flow, national policies, schemes and projects on tourism development and empowerment of women, patriarchy, capitalism, and casteism operate at broader global and national scales and affect women’s lives at their local regional levels. Multiple socio-economic structures and relations existing at local, household, community and individual scales like gendered division of labor, local economic relations, cultural and religious beliefs and norms, and household and community power relations also affect and are impacted by the broader processes and structures. These, in turn, together influence the extent to which women can gain political power. The findings of the analysis suggest that when a political empowerment program is implemented in practice, top-down by the State, in the overall space of unequal gender and caste relations, the women’s experiences of political participation are unsurprisingly those which suggest that tourism is borne out of and developed in a gendered society with gendered impacts.