Sites of neoliberal articulation : subjectivity, community organizations, and South Asian New York City

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Varghese, Linta, 1970-

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Through an ethnographic examination of two New York City South Asian organizations, Worker's Awaaz and the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), this study attends to the classed subjects produced at the different points of convergence of neoliberal policy in India and the United States. The project is concerned with the workings of South Asian organizations as the demographic profile of this population changes due to new migration patterns marked by gender, class, nationality and status, and new subjectivities borne of organizing and activism that have emerged around these. With attention to the nexus of capital, labor and rights, I argue that each organization represents two sides of neoliberal tendencies, and that this materializes in the subjects of worker and diasporic entrepreneur that are mobilized in Worker's Awaaz and GOPIO, respectively. Structural adjustment programs (SAPs) in South Asia compelled the migration of the low-wage female membership Worker's Awaaz. Once in the United States, where carework has become increasingly privatized, many of these women find employment as domestic workers whose labor is necessary to the households of upper-middle class and wealthy South Asians. SAPs also opened up South Asian markets to direct foreign investment. Needing outside capital for schemes of privatization and deregulation, the government of India turned to the diaspora, and deployed financial investment by overseas Indians as diasporic duty. This is a role that GOPIO has been at the forefront of organizing. I specifically explore how economic beings constructed through neoliberal discourse of human capital inhabit, rework, and contest these very discourses and practices. In Worker's Awaaz debates regarding who constituted a worker were contestations over the meanings of class and labor rooted in global migration flows. Within GOPIO the class inflected subjectivity of entrepreneur found nationalist luster as the articulation of entrepreneurialism was cast as a trait of Indian diasporic culture. The subject positions borne from these activities produced different struggles over the terms of national belonging and rights. The dissertation understands these positions as generated from the disjunctive tendencies of neoliberalism, and as sites that give insight into the workings of current capital regimes.