Contextualizing women’s agency in marital negotiations: Muslim and Hindu women in Karnataka, India

Biswamitra Sahu, Patricia Jeffery, Nakkeeran N

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use 36 in-depth interviews, with 18 Muslim and 18 Hindu women in Karnataka, India to explore the relationships between women’s educational attainments and women’s exercise of agency in spousal selection and the timing of marriage. We have outlined three kinds of agency, namely, convinced, resistance and complicit, and the contexts in which they were deployed by our participants during their marriage negotiations. Our examination of the role of education across this spectrum of agential capacities during marriage negotiations suggests that the linkages between education and agency are not straightforward. Rather, the normative context, and how parents and daughters interact with it when fixing marriages, makes the use of agency by the woman and by their parents much more complicated than standard narratives that claim that ‘modern’ education for girls will inevitably enable women to play decisive roles in realising their personal preferences. Our data lead us to challenge this framework and we argue that the link between education and agency is not always positive and linear, as it widely thought to be.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • agency
  • education
  • marriage
  • timing
  • negotiation
  • India


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