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Title: The political economy of 'empowerability' : a critical discourse analysis of the 'gender equality as smart economics' policy agenda
Author: Calkin, Sydney
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 5195
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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Gender equality initiatives in international development are increasingly dominated by messages about the ‘Smart Economics’ of empowerment and the economic benefits of capitalizing on women’s ‘untapped’ labour power. Which women are represented as most ‘empowerable’ in gender and development discourses, and what structures and processes shape them? This thesis interrogates how women are made visible as development objects by empowerment discourses; to this end, it develops the concept of ‘empowerability’ to critically analyze the discursive terrain of the ‘Smart Economics’ agenda. It uses critical discourse analysis of policy documents, publicity material, and public statements (supplemented by interviews) to examine the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report, Global Private Sector Leaders Forum, Adolescent Girl Initiative, and Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect campaign. I develop the ‘empowerability’ framework by providing a feminist reading of Foucault’s critique of human capital, in order to map the relationship between bodies, subjectivities, and empowerment interventions. In the empirical chapters that follow, I apply this framework. With reference to the 2012 World Development Report, I demonstrate that empowerment discourses rely on highly exclusionary categories in order to identify ‘empowerable’ subjects, which reproduce essentialist tropes about maternal altruism as an engine for economic growth. They furthermore represent women as altruistic but irrational, non-market actors who require responsibilization through job and life skills training. Drawing on analysis of Bank public-private partnerships, my analysis shows that the narrative of empowerment that emerges from ‘Smart Economics’ literature works to legitimize corporate authority in the development process and position corporations as the actors best place to catalyze the empowerment process. The ‘empowerability’ framework shows that the dominant mode of empowerment deployed in ‘Smart Economics’ policy engenders a development discourse that is highly exclusionary and produces a restrictive neoliberal conception of the bodies and subjectivities who ‘matter’ for development.
Supervisor: Mitchell, Audra ; Spary, Carole Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available