Educated migrants mobilising rural and urban identities in north India

Mr Andrew Deuchar1

1University Of Melbourne


This paper examines the ways educated yet unemployed male migrants in north India perform identities so as to contend their marginality. While other studies have generated important insights into the performativity of migrants’ identities and their cultural versatility, they have tended to focus on a single location. This paper highlights the importance of mobile methodologies for migration research and offers insights into the spatial contingency of migrants’ identities. Through a multi-sited ethnography, during which I accompanied participants to their rural villages as well as the regional city of Dehradun, I argue that young men strategically mobilise identities which register them as ‘out of place’. More specifically, I argue that young men perform ‘rural’ identities in urban areas, and ‘urban’ identities in rural ones so as to realise status and respect. In a context of widespread unemployment and uncertainty, this is an important strategy through which migrants seek to position themselves as worthy youth with meaningful prospects, at the same time as they leave open the possibility of both rural and urban futures.


Andrew is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, in the School of Geography and the Australia India Institute. His work focuses on youth, migration and education in north India.

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