Considering children’s economic agency: Work and school decisions in Kanchipuram, India

Thangaraj, Miriam (2016) Considering children’s economic agency: Work and school decisions in Kanchipuram, India. [Publications (Pre-joining)]

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This chapter queries the remarkable yet unremarked silencing of working children’s perspectives in policy approaches to child labor in India. The increasing mobilization by the policy community for the complete prohibition of child labor in the country—the so-called “blanket-ban” on child labor—reifies and reinscribes the global construction of childhood as a period of dependence and discipline; in effect, erasing children’s roles as economic actors in their own right. Drawing on ethnographic research with working children in Kanchipuram and on anthropology of policy and childhood studies perspectives, this chapter offers a critique of the policy orthodoxy on child labor by foregrounding children’s “flexitarian” responses to the transnational “no work more school” mantra enforced in the area in the past two decades. Children not only exercised economic agency in making decisions for work and/or school and acting on them, their logics demonstrated a sophisticated awareness of the local economy and a longer-term horizon of calculations towards achieving their (nonformal sector) aspirations. By foregrounding and explicating children’s situated logics and aspirations, this chapter contributes to the meager literature on children’s economic agency. More pressingly, it underlines the need for alternative approaches to schooling and work that better accommodate children’s aspirations and agency, particularly in contexts increasingly marked by neoliberal arrangements of production and consumption.

Item Type: Publications (Pre-joining)
Authors: Thangaraj, Miriam
Document Language:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economic agency, Working children, Right-To-Education Act India
Subjects: Social sciences > Education
Divisions: Azim Premji University > School of Education
Full Text Status: Restricted
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