Ilana Eloit | Feminist Theory
Under the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi government, the largest state-run and supported network of skills training schools, the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), are slated to be the most important sites for transforming subaltern youth into appropriate global workers for the IT-ITES sectors. Based on historical, archival research and sustained, ethnographic work in industrial schools in New Delhi, I trace parallels between the colonial, skilled craftsman, or the “maistry,” in the nineteenth century to the contemporary computer operator in the twenty-first century through inextricable linkages between forms of governmentality, communication technologies, and labor formations. Colonial and contemporary industrial students are constructed as uncivilized and trained for subordinate positions despite the leveling promise of industrial schools. However, both groups critically interpret development messages in the context of their everyday lives in demanding an “education” versus “training,” and in holding the state responsible for their welfare. Historical and ethnographic research is vital to critically examine the promise of “Skilling India” for marginalized communities.