Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

The Invisibilized State: How "Empowered Women" Saved India's Financial Inclusion Agenda

in partnership with GSWS/FQT, South Asia Center, Dept. of Anthropology, Dept. of Sociology, and PDRI

Smitha Radhakrishnan
Luella LaMer Professor of Women’s Studies & Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College
Thursday, October 20, 2022 - 12:00
A Virtual CASI Seminar via Zoom — 12 noon EDT | 9:30pm IST

About the Seminar:
In recent decades, in line with UN millennial goals oriented toward “financial inclusion,” the Indian government, together with the private and charitable sectors, has greatly expanded access to basic financial services. But these efforts are only the most recent of a long history of state-led efforts, dating back to the colonial era, of state-led attempts to provide fair financing to India's masses. In all these earlier efforts, gendered constructions shaped banking policies' triumphs and failures. Triangulating data from interviews, historiographies of banking and recent regulatory debates around microfinance, this seminar constructs a history of gendered finance in India, from colonial agricultural policies to microfinance. Radhakrishnan argues that the current dominance of private financial companies in the space of "financial inclusion" targets women borrowers through empowerment discourses, but ultimately further constrains their opportunities for class mobility. These moves became possible as the state slowly abdicated its role in overseeing private financial companies. Radhakrishnan proposes a tentative framework for understanding India's gendered financial ecosystem at multiple scales.

About the Speaker:
Smitha Radhakrishnan is the Luella LaMer Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College. Her research examines the cultural, financial, and political dimensions of gender and globalization, with particular focus on India, the United States, and South Africa. Radhakrishnan is the author of Making Women Pay: Microfinance in Urban India (Duke University Press, 2022) and Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a Transnational Class (Duke University Press, 2011). She is also the co-author (with Gowri Vijayakumar) of Sociology of South Asia: Postcolonial Legacies, Global Imaginaries (Pagrave, 2022). She received her Ph.D in Sociology from University of California, Berkeley.