Cultural Reflections in Indian Foreign Services: Gendered Voices from the Field

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2021)
Title: Cultural Reflections in Indian Foreign Services: Gendered Voices from the Field
Stream: Gender, Sexuality and Culture
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Shilpa, Panjab University, India


Ruth Benedict argues, "If we are interested in cultural processes, the only way in which we can know the significance of the selected detail of behaviour is against the background of the motives and emotions and values that are institutionalised in that culture." Gender is a social phenomenon that is socially and culturally constructed within various societal dimensions. Culture is often regarded as the beliefs, practices and traditions of a particular society. Intrinsically linked to each other, it further produces gender-specific value attachments in the power relations, behaviour, and roles. These perpetuate from individuals to society, communities, and institutions at local, national, and international levels. Cultural values exist not only in social institutions like family and marriage. But also in formal administrative institutions. Thus, the bureaucratic realities and functioning are also affected. Moving beyond bureaucratic neutrality and looking into the actual practices, we argue that gender-specific cultural values such as patriarchy, misogyny, and heteronormality unfold in these institutions' workings. However, there are several administrative jobs, but this study shall focus on Indian Foreign Services. Since its inception in 1949, women diplomats form 25 % of the total strength in 2020. Therefore, present and former women officials will be approached for in-depth interviews. Gender has not been studied in the administrative workings of the IFS. Considering the largest democracy and culturally diversified country, India, the author tries to explore the gender-related structural and cultural challenges in the form of cumulative narratives.

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