Council on Anthropology and Education
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Future-oriented logics and progress narratives shape constructions of childhood and international development, where children are figured as not-yet adults and the global South as not-yet developed (Sriprakash & Hopkins, 2016). Girls from the global South have most recently been figured as ideal bodies for investment holding the potential for promised futures. Life skills education programs have gained traction in this larger global development effort over the last several years; undergirding this impetus is the assumption that skills such as confidence, emotional management, and resilience will enable young women on the margins to overcome odds and pursue their dreams. Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic research that attends to the translation of these globalized psychosocial theories from official program curriculum into congested classrooms in New Delhi, I attend to how transnational discourses of entrepreneurialism unfold in empowerment lessons taught to Dalit and Muslim girls in New Delhi. I argue that girls are taught to embody what I call affective dispositions of gendered entrepreneurialism. Learning to embody this form of “affective labor” (Mankekar and Gupta, 2016) entails lessons on aspiration and restraint. These affective dispositions re-work participants’ orientation to the future as they are moved towards new aspirational regimes. As global discourses of female empowerment intermingle with new ideals of middle-class Indian femininity, girls’ aspirations become fraught with hopes for new possibilities, recognition of gendered constraints, and simultaneous anxiety and confidence about navigating precarious futures.