Mobile phones and Gender Empowerment: Enactment of 'Restricted Agency'

Nguyen Thi Hoan, Arul Chib, Ram Mahalingham

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingConference proceedingAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Capability Approach, as developed by Amartya Sen, has been criticized for an overly individualistic approach, while simultaneously being re-framed in alignment with the dominant social structure. We situate individual agency within the frame of social power structures, examining agency and empowerment gained by mobile phone usage from 26 Vietnamese foreign brides in Singapore. We use an intersectionality perspective from gender studies to find that, while facing multiple grounds of discrimination from the dominant group, the women constantly negotiate at the intersections of gender, ethnicity and social class, leading to two active strategies for positive well-being and empowerment: Essentialization of gender and Aspiration. The mobile phone was found to be an active agent in facilitating their aspiration for individual changes, autonomy, and more powerful decision making roles in domestic and social domains - A variety of communicative practices developed their capabilities. On the other hand, Mobiles also mediated the enactment and practices of the foreign brides' essential beliefs of their own idealized femininity and traditional gender roles, in contrast with the dominant development discourse of women's empowerment. The socio-cultural contexts influencing processes of technological appropriation is discussed from the perspective of development, particularly re-framing Western notions of gender equality within the agentic framework.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD 2016
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
ISBN (Electronic)9781450343060
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event8th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD 2016 - Ann Arbor, United States
Duration: 3 Jun 20166 Jun 2016

Publication series

SeriesACM International Conference Proceeding Series
Volume03-06-June-2016

Conference

Conference8th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAnn Arbor
Period3/06/166/06/16

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was carried out with the aid of a grant from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

Publisher Copyright: © Copyright 2016 ACM.

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