The South Indian state of Kerala is well known for its progressive policy, high social indicators, and comparatively high women’s status. Processes of modernization, however, have had an ambiguous impact on women. This study of female cashew factory workers in Kerala combines meticulous historical investigation with anthropological research, including a wealth of in-depth interviews.
The author traces changes since the 1930s in gender relations among low-caste men and women by examining processes of modernization in the organization of work, trade union activities, and ideologies regarding marriage and family life. Her main conclusion is that, although women have obtained better absolute conditions at work and in society, the power discrepancy between low-caste men and women has increased in favour of men because low-caste women have gone through a process of effeminization; they are now seen as weaker and more dependent on men than in earlier decades.