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Rethinking Agency: developmentalism, gender and rights

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Sumi Madhok
Taylor and Francis (15 March 2013)

This book proposes a new theoretical framework for agency thinking by examining the ethical, discursive and practical engagements of a group of women development workers in north-west India with developmentalism and individual rights.

Rethinking Agency asks an underexplored question, tracks the entry, encounter, experience and practice of developmentalism and individual rights, and examines their normative and political trajectory. Through an ethnography of a moral encounter with developmentalism, it raises a critical question: how do we think of agency in oppressive contexts? Further, how do issues of risk, injury, coercion and oppression alter the conceptual mechanics of agency itself?

The work will be invaluable to research organisations, development practitioners, policy makers and political journalists interested in questions of gender, political empowerment, rights and political participation, and to academics and students in the fields of feminist theory, development studies, sociology, politics and gender studies.

  • Dr Sumi Madhok is a lecturer in transnational gender studies at the Gender Institute, LSE.

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Reviews

'This innovative book establishes Sumi Madhok as a leading figure in debates around agency and development. Her critique of the action-bias in contemporary understandings of autonomy gives new meaning to the notion of ‘rights-talk’, and is likely to shape discussion in years to come. This wide-ranging work contributes to both feminist and development literatures, and to the conceptualisation of developmentalism as well as to that of agency.'
Anne Phillips, Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science, LSE

'This important book brings together critical theoretical and ethnographic insights and puts forward a radical new conceptual framework for thinking about agency and autonomy and in so doing challenges the dominant modes of thinking about developmentalism. [It] will make a decisive contribution to critical debates on gender, agency and development.'
Shirin M. Rai, Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

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Rethinking Agency