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Logics of Empowerment

Development, Gender, and Governance in Neoliberal India

2008
Author:

Aradhana Sharma

Logics of Empowerment

A critical look at the globally dominant development strategy of “empowerment”

How do those cast out of India’s successes mobilize against disempowerment? Aradhana Sharma takes up this question, focusing on a women’s program that is part governmental and part nongovernmental and strives to empower those rural Indian women who have been pushed aside.

Bringing specificity to the study of neoliberalism, Logics of Empowerment fosters a deeper understanding of development and politics in contemporary India.

Logics of Empowerment offers an abundance of rich, detailed ethnographic work while making significant theoretical contributions to the analysis of neoliberalism, development, and notions of empowerment.

Sally Engle Merry, author of Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice

Celebratory news features about India’s thriving middle class tell only part of the story of the country’s recent economic rise, frequently glossing over the 300 million Indians who live on the margins and struggle to survive under economic liberalization. How do those cast out of their country’s successes perceive and respond to their position and mobilize against disempowerment?

In Logics of Empowerment, Aradhana Sharma takes up these questions, focusing on the work of an innovative women’s program called Mahila Samakhya that is part governmental and part nongovernmental and strives to empower those rural Indian women who have been pushed aside. She details the awkward ideological articulations and paradoxical outcomes of this unique activist-cum-government organizational structure and usage of empowerment.

Bringing much-needed specificity to the study of neoliberalism, Logics of Empowerment fosters a deeper understanding of development and politics in contemporary India.

Logics of Empowerment

Aradhana Sharma is assistant professor of anthropology and feminist studies at Wesleyan University. She is the coeditor of The Anthropology of the State: A Reader.

Logics of Empowerment

Logics of Empowerment offers an abundance of rich, detailed ethnographic work while making significant theoretical contributions to the analysis of neoliberalism, development, and notions of empowerment.

Sally Engle Merry, author of Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice

Based on Aradhana Sharma’s twenty months of ethnographic research in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Logics of Empowerment is a penetrating critique of the contemporary development discourse and marks a genuine advance in the critical understanding of neoliberalism.

John Harriss, author of Power Matters: Essays on Institutions, Politics, and Society in India

This is a brave attempt to challenge the now-dominant emphasis on difference and antiessentialism. Sharma provides a powerful demonstration of how GAD and women’s empowerment can easily become tangled up in paradoxes, games of truth, conflicting self-interests, and ethical deceits amid the neoliberal blurring of the boundaries between state and nonstate spheres.

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