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Skill, Work and Gendered Identity in Contemporary India: The Business of Delivering Home-Cooked Food for Domestic Consumption

Nandini Gooptu and Rangan Chakravarty

Journal of South Asian Development, 2018, vol. 13, issue 3, 293-314

Abstract: This article analyses the meaning and significance of skills from the perspective of those who acquire and use them, going beyond dominant approaches to skill development as a strategy to enhance employability, productivity and economic benefit. With a study of home-based women entrepreneurs, who prepare food for delivery to customers’ homes, the article examines how entrepreneurial skills relate to gendered identity. While men operate with a market-savvy, commercial logic, women are animated by an ethic of personalized care and a family ethos of involvement in their customers’ everyday domestic life. They cast themselves as expert practitioners of an inherited culinary tradition as well as being skilled in exercising a superior and inherent gendered capacity to forge emotional, nurturing and fictive kinship bonds with customers. Although this reproduces gender distinctions and may constrain the growth of women’s business, they nevertheless cultivate these skills as a powerful mode of self-realization and developing a sense of self-worth. Bearing in mind the conception of human development as advancement of human flourishing, the article concludes that, in approaching skill development, it is critical to consider the identity and perception of those who use skills, and the subjective, affective meanings attached to skills in a given social context.

Keywords: Skill development; gender; women entrepreneurs; self-esteem; subjectivity; enterprise (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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