Workshop 3

Interrogating and Narrating Inequalities – Youth Anxieties and Aspirations in India Today

Learning Objectives


Inequalities sit in many places. In this exploration, we will address intersectional inequalities experienced by Indian youth as they navigate their entry into adulthood. This workshop will make visible, and open for discussion, the structural hierarchies, and everyday acts of power that young women and men must face at home, at school and at work. The ‘NEET’ (not in employment, education or training) category captures the systemic exclusion of youth, and its vulnerability to popular politics in contemporary India. In the case of young women, home, school and work are spaces of inequity and of struggle for self-definition and autonomy. These spaces are saturated with repressive patriarchal ideologies that fix the woman’s role in the family and act as ‘inherited systems of inequality and oppressions’.

The workshop will examine specific discriminatory factors, such as caste, class and gender, but also the modalities through which these are mediated – one example being regional language practices and the ways in which educational policies take them into consideration. The criteria of inclusion and exclusion in higher education reveal to us how the manual and mental hierarchy with a bias towards English language training has worked since colonial times. We will explore the different ways in which it is being reproduced within curricula and pedagogies of a single dominant model of modern university. Access to quality education, the field of study or training undertaken, as well as an individual’s social and linguistic capital all contribute to shaping the chances for youth to enter the labor market and their perspectives for professional advancement.

Participants will seek to identify the emergent spaces of conflict, negotiation, and resistance to map the enigmatic terrain of youth publics in India.

Learning Objectives

This workshop aims to position youth publics within larger debates about inequalities in India today. Key objectives include:
● To generate a deeper understanding of the relevance of an intersectional approach for the study of inequality (caste, gender, but also age, region, language);
● To contribute to student’s learning to generate insights about inequalities by confronting academic (expert) knowledge with experienced-based knowledge;
● To contribute to students developing an understanding of the ways in which hierarchies permeate mental, physical/material and institutional arenas, and how these shape struggles for emancipation;
● To incite critical engagement with the various quantitative and qualitative methods used to examine inequalities, and their respective scalar reference points, from macro-level statistics via local-scale surveys to micro-scale ethnographic methods;
● To incite students to Identify gaps or blind spots in various research methods;
● To contribute to student’s appreciation of how artistic practices, notably the visual arts,
permit to understand inequality and constitute a form of resistance.



09:30 – 11:00 | Introduction to the workshop, the team, the trainees

11:00 – 11:15 | break

11:15 – 12:30 | Macro trend in intersectional inequalities experienced by Indian youth – A discussion by Odile Henry and Kalaiyarasan

12:30 – 01:30 | Lunch

01:30 – 02:15 | Transformation of fisheries and gender implications – Prabhakar Jayaprakash

The fisheries has been going through greater transformation in the last five decades or so because of mechanisation and influx of large capital. Historically, fisheries is a male dominated profession and women play only ancillary roles. They do not have direct access to resources of sea but had control over processing, distribution and sales. However, in the last few decades, they are becoming more proletarised and losing their traditional control over the harvest. This session will briefly introduce gender, fisheries and possible areas of research to participants of this workshop. The presenter will use both academic and literary sources in this process.

02:15 – 03:00 | Struggles of youth in agricultural areas in the Kaveri Delta – Shibi Nandan

The landless agricultural labourers of the Kaveri delta had to struggle hard for about a century to get the little land that some of them have got today in their hands. But the land today is slowly becoming redundant due to climate change, change in democratic systems and neo liberalisation. What struggles do the youth of these households which are losing their source of livelihood go through in this scenario?

03:00 – 03:15 | break

03:15 – 05:30 | Observing the classroom – Barbara Čurda

How are inequalities experienced at the level of everyday interactions? How can research give an account of such processes?
In these two sessions, I would like to explore with you two things: (1) Qualitative methodologies that are used at the very micro level for analysing social phenomena. Namely, I will focus on observation as a method to assess social interactions in daily lived situations. (2) We will question, on the basis of a case example of observation of dance classroom situations, how the transmission of know-how is intertwined in transmission situations with the reproduction of a social order.


09:30 – 11:00 | Narrativising Young women’s Lives in Neo-liberal Times: The Politics of Inequality and Precarity of Labour  – S. Anandhi
Session 1: Young women, Work , Caste and Domesticity
This Session draws out important narratives on the intersectional aspects of young women’s lived realities under the contemporary social and economic transformation. In doing so, It will discuss the relevance of field based ethnographic qualitative methods in grasping complexities of gendered and caste based precarity and vulnerability of informal work and family for young women and discuss the relevance of understanding and engaging with women’s agency and narratives on work, and domesticity. While the first half of the session will offer conceptual framework to understand the category,, concepts and methods in researching young women’s lived realities, the second part will be group reading of select articles on the above theme.

11:00 – 11:15 | break

11:15 – 12:30 | Crises of youth (through the lens of caste/ gender) – Kalaiyarasan

Drawing on mix-methods and survey data, my three sessions aim at understanding and measuring inequalities particularly in the labour market.
Session 1: Measures of exclusion and inequality in the labour market
Following the conversation with Odile Henry on macro trend in intersectional inequalities experienced by Indian youth, my lecture will focus on basic hands-on training in handling data and incorporates short in-class exercises in measuring the NEET’ (not in employment, education or training) and women’s world of work in India.
Session 2: Women and work in India
Drawing on feminist thinkers Nancy Fraser, the second day will focus on reading the numbers through the lens concepts used in intersectional approach towards inequalities.
Session 3: Limits of Numbers
The session will focus on the anthropological texts on labour market and gender inequality. The overall intended outcome is twofold: learning methods in measures of inequality, and the second implications at the individual level and macro development narratives. Participants will be asked to deal with the actual data (National Sample Surveys) in measuring the ‘NEET’ category that captures the systemic exclusion of youth and engages with the qualitative analysis. While the former would give a bird’s eye view of inequalities in labour market in numeric terms, the latter will engage with the underlying processes that have given rise to such inequalities. Data don’t speak by themselves and numbers often conceal more than they reveal. These three sessions will invite the participants to reflect on these numbers through the lens of concepts and their own experiences and life stories.

12:30 – 01:30 | Lunch

01:30 – 03:00 | Observing the classroom – Barbara Čurda

03:00 – 03:15 | break

03:15 – 05:30 | “Responsibilities of Marginalized Art and the Artist” – Anthoni Guruz, Aarti Kawlra

In the session an artist speaks. Anthoni Guruz will share the problems faced by a young artist who belongs to the marginalized section of society. His art bears the responsibility of rejecting the aesthetics of the art world by depicting his life circumstances and his reality. The visual art he creates, depicting the problems faced by him in this wretched modern world, is in itself an attempt to bring to light the inequalities faced by today’s youth who are aspiring for a better tomorrow. The session will be opened by Aarti Kawlra and will be followed by an open discussion.


09:30 – 11:00 | The mental/manual hierarchy in higher education  – Aarti Kawlra

In this talk Aarti Kawlra will reflect on the contemporary economisation and technologization of higher education together with the growing dominance of a singular model of knowledge production and dissemination the world over. I go on to show how the invisibilisation of manual/craft/artisanal work on university campuses has been a systematic process of sifting and separating the wheat from the chaff, along racial, caste and gender lines. What were the colonial pedagogies that ensured this separation and distance? In addition to the talk, we will take up the reading of some short texts during the session, followed by an open discussion.

11:00 – 11:15 | break

11:15 – 12:30 | Crises of youth (through the lens of caste/ gender) – Kalaiyarasan

Drawing on mix-methods and survey data, my three sessions aim at understanding and measuring inequalities particularly in the labour market.

12:30 – 01:30 | Lunch

01:30 – 03:00 | Narrativising Young women’s Lives in Neo-liberal Times: The Politics of Inequality and Precarity of Labour  – S. Anandhi

Session 2 : Systematic Marginalization : Gender, Labour and State Welfare

This session will focus on the state -market nexus in systematic marginalization of women’s labour ( paid and unpaid ) in the context of large scale incorporation of young women in informal sector work. It will narrativise the gendered nature of state welfare politics and the crisis of masculinity to understand the paradoxes of state welfare and market induced informal sector work for women which are shaped by the idea of masculine protection and expropriation of female labour through feminisation of work. Case studies of precarity in the gendered labour market and the crisis of masculinity in the social sphere will be shared with the participants to critically reflect upon them through group work.

03:00 – 03:15 | break

03:15 – 05:30 | Film Screening with Amudhan RP

When did I experience caste for the first time in my life? What have I gained or lost because of my caste identity? How do I handle my caste? Do I hide? Do I celebrate? Do I reject it? How aware am I? Can I introspect? How true can I be? As various opinions of unconnected people are juxtaposed against the historical localities in which the manifestation of caste can be seen and felt, audiences too are encouraged to take an inward journey.

Youth Anxieties and Aspirations in India Today : Sundar & Jagan


09:30 – 11:00 | Groupwork preparation

11:00 – 11:15 | break

11:15 – 12:30 | Groupwork presentation preparation

12:30 – 01:30 | Lunch

The afternoon will be dedicated to the presentation and discussion of each workshop groupwork.


Aarti Kawlra is a social anthropologist and Academic Director of the Humanities Across Borders (HAB) program at the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden Netherlands, since 2016. HAB facilitates transdisciplinary and trans-regional collaborations to build bridges between the ‘text’ and ‘context’ of knowledge making and transmission in higher education. Her research work interrogates disciplinary and popular narratives surrounding culture, heritage, education, nation and development.

Amudhan R.P. is a film marker and documentarist. Born and brought up in a rural and small town background, he has made around 20 films on various social, political and economical themes since then. He also founded Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival and Chennai International Documentary and Short Film Festival has been conducting them for over 23 years and 10 years respectively. He also curates various thematic film festivals across India. Currently Amudhan is pursuing Mobile Phone Filmmaking since the Covid 19 induced lockdown, experimenting on the medium while expressing human anxieties and reaching out to the nature.

Anandhi S, is Professor at the  Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. Previously she was a Visiting Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,  South Asia Visiting Scholar at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, Oxford, Visiting Fellow, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris, Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of International Development, Nagoya University, Japan, and a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of International Relations, Daito Bunka University, Saitama, Japan.

Odile Henry is the Director of the CSH New Delhi and Full Professor of sociology at Paris 8 University.

Anthoni Guruz is an artist and graphic designer based in Pondicherry.

Barbara Čurda is a Marie Curie fellow and anthropologist, presently working at the IFP on the project GATRODI – Gender asymmetry in the transmission of Odissi dance in India – a case study (coordinator: Université Clermont Auvergne, laboratory ACTé (EA 4281), France; partner: French Institute of Pondicherry, India).

Kalaiyarasan A. is an Assistant Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India, and a non-resident fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University.

Prabhakar Jayaprakash is a doctoral student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and a research affiliate at the French Institute of Pondicherry, Pondicherry.Shibi Nandan is a doctoral student at the Pondicherry University and a research affiliate at the French Institute, Pondicherry.


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