Shaping Youth Potential: Development, Gendered Aspirations and Contested Visions of Indigenous Futures in Western India
Karishma Desai

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Primary Discipline

As ecological devastation intensifies and economic development results in extraction of natural resources, Indigenous communities around the world bear the brunt of consequences. Two key forces are at play on Indigenous youth lives in such contexts. On one hand, state interventions claim to empower Indigenous youth by cultivating their human capital to ?develop? Indigenous regions even while they confiscate community land. On the other hand, Indigenous social movements center youth as political actors in struggles towards sovereignty. Both draw on education as a means to shape youth potential towards distinct visions of Indigenous futures. Importantly, the gendered impacts of political economic shifts, distinct roles women play in social movements, and different kinds of skills training illustrate that visions for youth and community futures are gendered. Through a multi-sited comparative ethnography in the Narmada district of Gujarat, this study will bring into relief two key positions about Indigenous youth potential, examine how educational projects produce related gendered aspirations, and show how youth interpret and make sense of their own and their communities? futures. Examining the state?s educational efforts in relation to that of an Indigenous social movement provides ethnographic insight into the possibilities and limits of educational sovereignty in postcolonial societies.
About Karishma Desai
Karishma Desai is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Dr. Desai?s interdisciplinary research employs anthropological and feminist lenses in the study of childhood/youth, gender, and education. Her central concerns gravitate around the politics of knowledge, being, and aspirations/futures. Attending to global political economic structures and discourses alongside the everyday lives of young people, she studies the gendered and racialized subjectivities forwarded as desirable, with particular attention to the values, aspirations, and affective orientations made available. Dr. Desai?s research asks two key questions related to sites educating young people: What knowledges and ontologies matter in constructions of gendered and racialized childhoods and how have they come to matter? How are they disrupted? These questions lead to the study of entrenched colonial logics within educational sites, and transnational and decolonial feminist projects that unsettle liberal, anthropocentric constructions of the human. Dr. Desai?s research has been published in journals including Gender and Education, Comparative Education Review and Anthropology and Education Quarterly. She was also a 2019 Concha Delgado Gaitan Presidential Fellow awarded by the Council of Anthropology and Education. Desai received her doctorate and M.Ed from Teachers College, Columbia University and holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis.

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