Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Cecilia Van Hollen


Biomedicine, Gender, Rural health, South Asia, Women's health

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation tracks an uncommon migration: the movement of young women doctors from urban medical colleges to rural clinics in Rajasthan, North India. The ability for young women doctors to transfer their lives to a rural clinic, even for a year or two, is vital for career advancement in Rajasthan’s government health sector. Yet I found that women, over and over, rejected this opportunity, turning this urban to rural migration into a trickle rather than a flow. Through interviews, observations, and travel in urban and rural Jaipur district, I explore the meanings of urban and rural spaces as well as contested understandings of what role doctors should play in the health of the population. I found that rural spaces were discursively marked as particularly dangerous for doctors who are urban, middle-class women. First, moving to a “village of strangers” required shedding one’s protective social network and the paternalistic surveillance that accompanies it. Second, the presence of the wrong kind of men – lower class and rural – was seen to threaten urban middle-class women’s reputation and bodily integrity. Rural and peri-urban migrants were often blamed for the surge in sexual violence in India’s cities; for women doctors, moving to the village meant entering the origin point of these threatening bodies. The inability of women doctors to counter rural risk ultimately affects two groups of women: the doctors who find it necessary to turn down a village posting, thereby compromising their career in the government sector, and the patients who desire gender concordance in healthcare but find it unavailable in their area. My goal is to highlight the disconnect between the assumption, inherent in Rajasthan’s health policy, that women doctors can transport their lives seamlessly to village clinics, and the actual experiences of women doctors in rural work.


Open Access