Development and Gender Capital in India: Change, Continuity and Conflict in Kerala, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Development and Gender Capital in India

Change, Continuity and Conflict in Kerala, 1st Edition

By Shoba Arun


186 pages

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The Indian state of Kerala has invoked much attention within development and gender debates, specifically in relation to its female capital- an outcome of interrelated historical, cultural and social practices. On the one hand, Kerala has been romanticised, with its citizenry, particularly women, being free of social divisions and uplifted through educational well-being. On the other hand, its realism is stark, particularly in the light of recent social changes.

Using a Bourdieusian frame of analysis, Development and Gender Capital in India explores the forces of globalisation and how they are embedded within power structures. Through narratives of women’s lived experiences in the private and public domains, it highlights the ‘anomie of gender’ through complexities and contradictions vis-à-vis processes of modernity, development and globalisation. By demonstrating the limits placed upon gender capital by structures of patriarchy and domination, it argues that discussions about the empowered Malayalee women should move from a mere ‘politics of rhetoric and representation’ to a more embedded ‘politics of transformation’, meaningfully taking into account women’s changing roles and identities.

This book will be of interest to scholars and students of Development Studies, Gender Studies, Anthropology and Sociology.


Kerala has long been viewed as a model of development and particularly for its achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment. In this important new book Shoba Arun challenges this simplistic narrative. By applying a Bourdieusian gender capital framework she reveals ways in which patriarchical social structures constrain women’s social and economic roles. Arun’s deep scholarship makes this essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how Kerala really works."

David Hulme, Global Development Institute, The University of Manchester

An extraordinary account about the interaction of development policy and the role of women. By constructing that role in terms of "gender capital," Shoba Arun gives us a different type of analysis. From all the negatives in women’s situation she succeeds in extracting a significant positive. This move brings women’s talents and hard work to the fore and should lead to changed policies.

Saskia Sassen, Columbia University

This is an important book on the welfare of women in India, in particular Kerala, with particular reference to how global and social processes value and devalue forms of gender capital (such as migration, work, neoliberal practices) in local contexts. The rising levels of violence against women in Kerala lead Dr. Arun to reassess the structure of gender relations in a state which is often upheld as a model of social development. The readership of this thoughtful and provocative book would extend beyond feminist sociology into the areas of development and global studies.

Vani Borooah, Emeritus Professor of Applied Economics, University of Ulster

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Gender and Development: A Bourdieusian Framework

3. Situating Gender Capital in Kerala

4. Matriliny and Kinship: Transforming Gendered Habitus

5. ICTs and Gender Capital at Work

6. Migrating Gendered Capital

7. Victimization, Symbolic Violence and Complicity

8. Legitimate Capital and the Adivasi Deficit

9. Conclusion

About the Author

Shoba Arun is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Research on Asian Development

Welcoming contributions from new and established scholars worldwide, this series publishes high quality, interdisciplinary, original scholarship on development issues in Asia. Themes of the series include economic development, aid, migration and displacement, sustainability, globalization, gender, environment, social movements, climate change, political economy, health, education, human security, and urbanization. 

Routledge Research on Asian Development will be of interest to scholars of Development Studies, Asian Studies, International Studies, Environmental Studies, Sociology, Politics, Geography, Economics, and Anthropology.


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies