Empowering through Entitlement? The Micro-politics of Food Access in Rural Maharashtra, India

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Journal of Rural Studies

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Food security -- India -- Maharashtra, Agriculture -- India -- Social aspects, Food supply, Maharashtra (India) --Social conditions


In this paper, we examine the interplay of entitlement and empowerment through qualitative research on the micropolitics of two social protection programs in rural Maharashtra, India. The case study assesses the implications of the expansion of state space into a rural society through such programs and argues that hitherto existing social relations and micropolitics in villages produce differentiated biopolitical outcomes. Extending Amartya Sen's entitlement and capabilities frameworks, we contribute to the discussion on the relationship and distinctions between entitlement and empowerment by situating social protection programs within the ambit of technologies of biopower that are aimed at sustaining “make-live” conditions for certain populations. Our fieldwork in western India in 2012–2013 demonstrates the following: first, entitlements must be claimed and the ability to realize one's entitlements requires a minimal form of empowerment in village society vis-à-vis the local administration that administers entitlement programs. Second, we claim that state-led entitlement programs when introduced at the village level, encounter micro-politics that produce patronage relationships and blur the distinction between legal and extra-legal means of accessing food entitlements. We conclude by outlining the limits of an entitlement approach to social protection, especially in relation to the potential for empowerment of marginalized social groups.


Note: At the time of writing, Pronoy Rai was affiliated with the University of Illinois.

© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Journal of Rural Studies 45 (2016).



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