Sentenced to Commute: Indigenous Young Women at a City University

By Blumen, Orna; Tzafrir, Shay | Cultural Analysis, Annual 2011 | Go to article overview

Sentenced to Commute: Indigenous Young Women at a City University


Blumen, Orna, Tzafrir, Shay, Cultural Analysis


Daily commuters and the multicultural city

Multiculturalism is a term mentioned with regard to non-hegemonic groups, most commonly: immigrants, national minorities and indigenes. It refers to the decent response to the socio-cultural heterogeneity of the demographic composition in specific places (Song, 2010). Most typically, cities are such diversified places attracting many who seek to benefit from their qualities as trading hubs, marketplaces, industrial complexes, transportation nodes, governmental cores, foci of political activity and centers of service provision. Cities are also the location of many institutes of higher education--the pivot of the current study. Urban multiculturalism is largely evaluated by spatial separation into neighborhoods so that social groups, usually ethnic and racial, are sorted into various parts of the housing market. This is largely explained by prejudice and discrimination against such groups and by own-group preferences to maintain distinctiveness within specific urban parcels (Clark 2002; Krysan and Farley 2002; Massey and Denton 1993; Yinger 1995). This common focus on spatial segregation dismisses the temporal impact of daily dynamic, misreading additional forms of segregation across the urban space. Some recent research has noted that racial and ethnic transformation of urban tracts occurs through employment. As many urbanites move to their places of work, where they meet people from different socio-cultural groups who live in other neighborhoods, their commuting disrupts the known segregated order of the housing market, yielding additional urban patterns of segregation (Blumen and Zamir 2001; Ellis, Wright and Parks 2004).

However, as a focal point for various activities, the city also attracts many, employees and others, who reside beyond the metropolitan limits. Not only does this flow of incoming people increase the city's day-population, it also intensifies its diversity, portraying new, short-lived, hard to measure and unexplored spatial patterns of interactions and segregation. One well-acknowledged familiar daily influx is that of ex-urban employees who re-enter the city for employment purposes. Another relatively ordinary flow of incomers is that of university students who have not located to the city and commute regularly from their remote, often rural, neighborhoods. This study explores such a case, tackling multiculturalism from the less common perspective of daily migrants. It turns the light on their reality, focusing on the experience of indigenous young women who, in their pursuit of higher education, re-enter the city and experience its spirit while adding to its multicultural characteristic.

In the last decades, in most developed societies as well as in many developing ones, a remarkable boom in higher education has been largely centered on women. Higher education increases the chances of women to upgrade their earning potential and enhances their social capital as well as that of their family and community (Becker, Hubbard and Murphy 2010). In developing societies in the Arab world these advantages often provoke a paradox, challenging the traditional confinement of women to the home environment and the strict supervision over their movements and social contacts. This study explores the experience of young women, undergraduate students, who live in this paradox. It conveys the perceptions of Israeli Druze women who dwell in remote, semi-rural, traditional communities and commute to a city university. Previous research on Arab Palestinian women in the Israeli system of higher education focused mostly on long-term processes of identity re-construction after their university period and homecoming. The current study highlights their university period, exploring their present actuality as students. Following their commuting to and from the city, this study seeks to unveil their accumulative experience of frequent urban encounters and habitual fluctuations between these two, traditional and modern, gendered worlds. …

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Sentenced to Commute: Indigenous Young Women at a City University
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