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Commodification in Multiple Registers: Child Workers, Child Consumers, and Child Labor NGOs in India

  • Miriam Thangaraj
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies on Children and Development book series (PSCD)

Abstract

Using the term ‘commodity’ as an analytic, this chapter considers the persistence of an iconography of victimhood in dominant representations of child labor in India favored by ‘blanket ban’ NGOs. Drawing on a historiography of child labor legislations, dating from nineteenth century Britain, I explore ‘child labor’ as an affective commodity based on its victimhood imagery, which is readily recognized and consumed in global humanitarian markets today. In the context of NGOs in India, such affective representations also perform a particular NGO identity, one that delineates the “uncompromising” abolitionist stance of blanket ban NGOs, in contrast to the more accommodating stance of the Indian state. The affective logics of ‘child labor’ however, do not square well with the desires and aspirations of “real” working children who are economic agents and desiring subjects in their own right. Drawing on ethnographic research, I describe how ‘child labor,’ as an affective commodity, serves to discipline the Kanchipuram’s working children—in particular the consumption desires of boys—who are now increasingly represented by NGOs as victims of consumerism.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miriam Thangaraj
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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