jlal [at] berkeley [dot] edu
BBRG Scholar in Residence
(Aug 16, 2016 Aug 15, 2017)
Neoliberal Imaginaries: Commodity Culture, Aspirational Economies and Narratives of New Middle Class Selves and Genders in Urban India
My project examines the transformation of middle class identities and new technologies of the self in contemporary India. Through ethnographic investigations in various new sites of consumer culture, such as in direct sales and shopping malls, and in broader popular cultural psychotherapeutic narratives about the self, as evidenced in self-help groups and public fora on mental health, I trace the emergence of new models of the gendered self and citizenship through the cultural economies of neoliberal consumer capitalism. The new middle class self that is increasingly in evidence in urban India emerges through the active cultivation of tastes, lifestyles and habits through pedagogies of consumption that circulate in public culture. New models of selfhood are also produced through class practices at the level of intimate consumption in domestic and public life. They are enabled by, and transform, middle class domesticity, along with notions of the ideal family and genders.
Jayati Lal is a scholar of gender and labor in contemporary India. She has previously taught sociology and gender studies at Boston College, Cornell University, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ambedkar University Delhi, and American University. She has held various fellowships, including a postdoctoral Mellon fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Study in Delhi. Her publications on gender, labor, postcolonial feminist ethnography, Indian and global feminism and women workers have appeared in anthologies, encyclopedias and various international journals, including Critical Sociology, Feminist Studies, Signs, and Sociological Review. She is completing a book on women factory workers in Delhi that is based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, entitled: Making Factory Women: The Labor of Gender in Late Twentieth Century Indian Capitalism. Her current research focuses on gender, consumerism and constructions of neoliberal selfhood among the middle class in North India.