Logics of Empowerment – Development, Gender, and Governance in Neoliberal India by Aradhana Sharma
Chapter 3 – Empowering Moves: Paradoxes, Subversions, Dangers
This chapter is really interesting because the author moves inside of the GONGO in order to talk about the experiences of those who work for MS. I find this to be very useful because in my own work I would like to talk to those who work for a nonprofit because their experiences help us to better understand the neo-liberal market and the plight of the nonprofit. This is an interesting case because the nonprofit bleeds into a governmental organization that both hurts and helps those workers. What is fascinating is the way in which power flows between the workers, clients and governments. It seems that everyone is vying for some sort of power, and they all have some power, but some actors automatically are in ‘charge’ or at least they think they are.
· Importantly, empowerment programs effect both the lives of the clients AND those who work for the organization
· It is interesting to look at the workers as a space between the all powerful state actors and the subaltern classes.
· “How does mobilizing empowerment on the ground affect the self-image and work lives of MS personnel and alter the very meaning of empowerment?” (62)
· Field level personnel often use MS as a governmental organization or a nonprofit depending on their needs on the ground.
· Workers at MS have to define their work identities in different situations.
· They have to decide on how to identify the work program in different situations.
· She argues that working for empowerment groups is a double-edged sword. It has the potential to deradicalized empowerment, but at the same time empowerment is always about politics so it is always inherently political.
· Almost all workers at MS are women.
· MS workers try and distance themselves from the idea of state bureaucracy.
· The workers are denied certain benefits of state workers because they are not truly part of the governmental system. In this way they are exploited by the government.
· The workers understood the benefits and slights they would get as a nonprofit.
· MS workers have tried to unionize, but their efforts were crushed by the government. If they had won, other development projects workers would have demanded similar benefits.
· The author observes different situations in which MS workers describe themselves as either an NGO or a GO depending on what they need. Sometimes this would backfire, like when they needed a place to rent and they were asked for more money than it was worth.
· Interestingly, while the program is qualitative in nature, quantitative strategies are used sometimes to get people to participate like counting people in villages.
· Even though they sometimes used different identities, they most often saw themselves as working for an impassioned NGO.
· However, they were not allowed to participate in antistate struggles by subaltern women.
· They would get around this by taking days off or supporting the subaltern people in alternative ways (buying food, etc)
· She goes into the nature of state agencies and the caste system in India and how it prevents MS from successfully doing their job. She explains stories of MS workers being attacked or raped by upper class caste members and having trouble trying to bring them to justice. The social class system creates a significant problem to their empowerment work.
· She argues that the overall system both empowers and control MS workers simultaneously.