Social Sustainability, Development and Gendered Entrepreneurial Practices in India: De-essentialized Intersectional Perspectives

Dr Debarati Sen1

1Kennesaw State University, Atlanta, USA


What is their relationship to gendered militarized labor, everyday entrepreneurialism and contemporary development practices? This  question gains salience in contemporary India where autonomy movements (with a development focused agenda) have entered a new and treacherous playing field, women’s work force participation in the formal sector is at an all-time low while discourses of women’s empowerment and  entrepreneurialism are awash in state, non-profit and local and transnational donor discourse on sustainable development.

In this context this paper argues that  a de-essentialized intersectional perspective will enable gender specialists (especially when working in marginal communities with protracted subnational movements) to re-center questions about power, everyday labor and related economic and social aspirations in thinking through development policy and practice. Such an approach to engaging sustainable development will facilitate centering social sustainability—the most ignored ideas in the field of sustainable development—in assessing the success of contemporary sustainability initiatives at multiple scales.  De-essentialized intersectionality as a framework  will not only facilitate keen attention to structural inequities in appraising contemporary gender and development ideas but also underscore the cohabitation of contradictory political agendas within contemporary regional autonomy movements in India.


Dr. Debarati Sen holds a dual appointment between School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development and the Anthropology program at KSU. Her research takes place at the confluence of cultural anthropology, development studies, gender studies and conflict studies. For fifteen years her research examined gendered mobilizations around sustainable development in rural India culminating in her ethnographic monograph: Everyday Sustainability: Gender Justice and Fair Trade Tea in Darjeeling (Albany: SUNY Press, 2017).  In 2018 her book won two major awards: the International Studies Association’s Global Development Section Book Award and Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize from National Women’s Studies Association

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