Returnees and the development project in Bengaluru: brokering modernity from the in-between

This doctoral thesis examines the participation of highly-skilled returning Indian migrants in social development, in the light of the rhetoric around migration and its assumed potential for home country development. This research shows that social entrepreneurship and politics are the two main paths taken by them, based on in-depth interviews and participant observation in a returnee political campaign. Set in in the city of Bangalore in South India, it presents a micro-level view of the nature and operational rationalities of their initiatives while privileging their definitions of development and progress. These returnees, who changed careers from for-profit sectors in the West to social development initiatives in India, employ strategies of boundary-crossing through their use of liminal positions, spaces, and discourses to access different positions of power and perspectival vantage points, while drawing on transnational, neoliberal and postcolonial influences. Taking on the positions of the ‘in-between’ allows them to draw upon their hybrid positions along the migrant-resident spectrum as returnees, along the state-non state spectrum as social entrepreneurs and across the elite-subaltern spectrum through their act of having ‘returned to serve’. They attempt to bring credibility to their in-between positions by instrumentalizing morality, expertise and innovation. In conclusion, returnees perform the work of bringing about modernity by using notions of ‘being’. The notion of ‘being’ is not a passive stance: rather, they actively use it to perform political functions by defying the existing status quo.

Publication infos:
Geneva, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 2017
Publication year:
Number of pages:
319 p.
PhD Director(s):
Directeur de thèse : Professeur Isabelle Milbert
Call number:
HEITH 1224

 Record created 2017-10-17, last modified 2018-03-05

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