cover of book

Liberalization’s Children: Gender, Youth, and Consumer Citizenship in Globalizing India
by Ritty A. Lukose
Duke University Press, 2009
Cloth: 978-0-8223-4550-3 | Paper: 978-0-8223-4567-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8223-9124-1
Library of Congress Classification HQ799.I5.L85 2009
Dewey Decimal Classification 305.2350954

Liberalization’s Children explores how youth and gender have become crucial sites for a contested cultural politics of globalization in India. Popular discourses draw a contrast between “midnight’s children,” who were rooted in post-independence Nehruvian developmentalism, and “liberalization’s children,” who are global in outlook and unapologetically consumerist. Moral panics about beauty pageants and the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day reflect ambivalence about the impact of an expanding commodity culture, especially on young women. By simply highlighting the triumph of consumerism, such discourses obscure more than they reveal. Through a careful analysis of “consumer citizenship,” Ritty A. Lukose argues that the breakdown of the Nehruvian vision connects with ongoing struggles over the meanings of public life and the cultural politics of belonging. Those struggles play out in the ascendancy of Hindu nationalism; reconfigurations of youthful, middle-class femininity; attempts by the middle class to alter understandings of citizenship; and assertions of new forms of masculinity by members of lower castes.

Moving beyond elite figurations of globalizing Indian youth, Lukose draws on ethnographic research to examine how non-elite college students in the southern state of Kerala mediate region, nation, and globe. Kerala sits at the crossroads of development and globalization. Held up as a model of left-inspired development, it has also been transformed through an extensive and largely non-elite transnational circulation of labor, money, and commodities to the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. Focusing on fashion, romance, student politics, and education, Lukose carefully tracks how gender, caste, and class, as well as colonial and postcolonial legacies of culture and power, affect how students navigate their roles as citizens and consumers. She explores how mass-mediation and an expanding commodity culture have differentially incorporated young people into the structures and aspirational logics of globalization.


Ritty Lukose is Associate Professor in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

“Ritty A. Lukose provides a remarkable account of the dreams and struggles of youth adults as they seek to negotiate gender, caste, and globalization in a new century. . . . The book is well written and will be welcomed by the students, teachers and others interested in anthropology, South Asian studies, and gender studies.” - Educational Book Review

“Ritty Lukose’s Liberalization’s Children is an excellent ethnographic exploration of the cultural politics of globalization in post-liberalization Kerala. . . . Liberalization’s Children offers a fascinating account of the ways in which globalized discourses and practices are enacted and resisted at the local level in Kerala. It is well-written, being clear and accessible without compromising on intellectual quality or ethnographic richness. It is a significant contribution to scholarship on globalization, gender, consumption, and India, and is particularly relevant for scholars who wish to understand globalization as local, non-dominant, or youth experience.” - Lavanya Murali Proctor, Anthropological Quarterly

Liberalization’s Children is a well situated ethnography that beautifully illuminates the contradictions of liberalization on small town youth in a country in the global South. . . . Liberalization’s Children is an important and timely book at exactly the intersections of gender, class, culture and location that scholarship on globalization should welcome.” - Raka Ray, Contemporary Sociology

Liberalization’s Children challenges many assumptions that often underlie the above-mentioned incomprehensibility in the context of college student life. . . . Besides the many interesting leads that the chapters of Liberalization’s Children offer, it may perhaps be of considerable interest for us to explore the contexts and experiences of these students who strive against the tide to reconstruct activism as youthful and pleasurable, to see to what extent, and in what altered sense, they may be called the children of liberalization.” - J. Devika, Seminar Magazine

“Lukose’s writing provides us with an extraordinary combination of vivid images interwoven with a reality embedded on the firm ground of undergraduate college and hostel life in a small town in Kerala. The book seeks to go beyond conventional understandings of education as that perfect transformatory space leading to social and economic development. Instead, it opens up the ways in which we can seek to examine the linkages between education and young people’s lives in a rapidly developing and changing society through an understanding of the dreams, aspirations, and everyday lives of youth.” - Meenakshi Thapan, American Ethnologist

“Ritty Lukose offers a provocative, insightful, and well-written account of the experiences of young women and men in a private, lower-caste, coeducational college in southern Kerala that truly sets the standard for ethnographic studies of globalization.” - Charis Boutieri, American Anthropologist

Liberalization’s Children is a fascinating exploration of key contemporary issues in India with relevance for other non-Western contexts. Ritty A. Lukose investigates the formation of gendered identities in Kerala in relation to nationalist constructions of femininity and masculinity as well as the pulls of migration to West Asia and North America. Her achievement is to provide a useful mapping of the continuity with older forms of gendering alongside the disruptions caused by the developments of the 1990s. She does this by showing how the axes of difference emerging from colonial and post-colonial modernities underpin the apparently new experiences of globalization.”—Tejaswini Niranjana, author of Mobilizing India: Women, Music, and Migration between India and Trinidad

“This pioneering book expands the anthropology of a crucial part of India, a state with a complex agrarian history, an active communist movement, and remarkable achievements in literacy and social consciousness. Engaging with college-age youth in this part of the world, Ritty A. Lukose provides a remarkable account of the dreams and struggles of young adults as they seek to negotiate gender, caste, and globalization in a new century. Her book will be of great interest to students of youth cultures, education, globalization, and South Asia.”—Arjun Appadurai, author of Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger

-- J. Devika, Seminar Magazine

-- Raka Ray, Contemporary Sociology

-- Meenakshi Thapan, American Ethnologist

-- Educational Book Review

-- Lavanya Murali Proctor, Anthropological Quarterly

-- Amita Gupta, Comparative Education Review

    Acknowledgments ix

    Introduction. Liberalization's Children—Nation, Generation, and Globalization 1

    1. Locating Kerala, Between Development and Globalization 23

    2. Fashioning Gender and Consumption 54

    3. Romancing the Public 96

    4. Politics, Privatization, and Citizenship 132

    5. Education, Caste, and the Secular 163

    Epilogue. Consumer Citizenship in the Era of Globalization 200

    Glossary 207

    Notes 211

    Bibliography 243

    Index 269

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