This project expands on my recent work (Ganguly-Scrase and Scrase 2009) on middle classes in India under neoliberal globalisation. For the past decade my research has challenged the very notion of the ‘middle class’ as the undoubted beneficiary of neoliberal reforms in India. The current study raises similar concerns and examines how neoliberal globalisation has asserted itself as the dominant force in modernity at the regional level and the subsequent role this process plays in the formation of regional middle classes. Previously it has been demonstrated that there is a metropolitan provincial divide among the middle classes (Ganguly-Scrase and Scrase, 2001). Yet, this is not shaped by geography, but rather culturally nuanced understandings, behaviour and practices. This project interrogates this notion further by analysing the extent to which contemporary middle class sensibilities in district townships in West Bengal are framed by a neoliberal regional modernity. In doing so this research aims to complement the work of Rutten and Upadhyaya on the nature of provincial globalisation in India.
One of the cornerstones of economic liberalisation in India has been the need for the states to take initiatives in terms of economic restructuring. For West Bengal this policy shift was articulated in the New Industrial Policy and the revamping of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. Increasing private investment and undertaking major urban redevelopment are integral to the ruling Left Front government’s industrialization plans. They include the expansion of seaports and transport facilities, attracting multinational corporations, creating special economic zones and the growth of IT hubs which are all characteristic of the metropolis of Calcutta. Much of these are intended to provide employment opportunities for the emerging middle classes. According to some neoclassical economists (cf Bajpai and Sachs, 1999) West Bengal is considered to be an intermediate performer in terms of growth, providing opportunities for people. While much of their appraisal concentrates on infrastructure development in metropolitan areas, the social consequences of neoliberal globalisation in regional towns in West Bengal is little understood. My research aims to fill this gap by uncovering the nature of uneven development, the macro political economic factors and the accompanying impacts through ethnographic accounts of middle class families. This ‘regional’ globalisation leading to changes in social structures and cultural formation brought about by globalised media, the role of global English, and diaspora philanthropy will be examined.
Bajpai N. and J.D. Sachs 1999. “The Progress of Policy Reform and Variations in Performance at the Sub-National Level in India” Development Discussion Papers No. 730, (HIID, Harvard University).
Ganguly-Scrase, R and Timothy J Scrase 2009. Globalization and the Middle Classes in India: The Social and Cultural Impact of Neoliberal Reforms, Abingdon: Routledge.
Ganguly-Scrase, R and Timothy J Scrase 2001. “Who Wins? Who Loses? And Who Even Knows? – Responses to Economic Liberalisation and Cultural Globalisation” Special Issue Globalisation and Economic Liberalisation in South Asia, McGuire, J (ed) South Asia, Vol, No. pp.,141-158