Disability and Participatory Development in South India: Perils of Neoliberal Governance
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My doctoral research explores the intersections between disability, development, globalization, and the politics of subject-formation in the Global South. In my dissertation, I investigate the impact of globalization and neoliberal development practices on people with disabilities in developing countries, with specific reference to India. Located in rural districts of Andhra Pradesh, the flagship state of neoliberal reforms in south India, this research is an ethnographic study of a participatory development project of the World Bank that organizes large-scale self-help groups (SHGs) among disabled people and other marginalized groups for their empowerment and poverty alleviation. In the context of a shrinking welfare state, I critically explore the depoliticized notions of empowerment and participation that are circulated in these SHG projects and the possibilities and paradoxes such practices carry for rural disabled people. Illuminating the changing relationships between the state and its disabled citizens, I focus on the process of subject-formation to understand the kind of disabled subjects that get produced through these projects and the new forms of neoliberal selves and identities that come into being. In doing so, I highlight the disempowering effects of such shifts on marginalized communities. I foreground the discussion on disability as a subaltern category, a relatively new identity that offers analytical tools to understand and critique debates around governance and citizenship in the context of globalization.