The ambiguous figures of social enterprise: Gendered flexibility and relational work among the iAgents of Bangladesh

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Abstract

Trained by social enterprises as objects and instruments of development, Bangladesh's female “Information Agents” adopt the gendered flexibilities implied by new entrepreneurial livelihoods. Switching among multiple roles, these entrepreneurs defy social expectations and appear as ambiguous figures. “Social enterprise” thus incorporates the morally perilous results of gendered flexibility and the contradictions between emergent ethical discourses and their business logics. Market‐driven enterprise becomes an inescapable feature of development and produces “the social” as a site of capital accumulation and organizational expansion for the development elite. It also offloads the risks of manipulating social relations onto the poor entrepreneurs of poverty capitalism, who often cannot translate between market‐based moral repertoires and local community notions of sociality and ethical personhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-616
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Volume44
Issue number4
Early online date13 Nov 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017

Keywords

  • Bangladesh
  • social enterprise
  • financial inclusion
  • gender and development
  • relational work
  • ambiguity
  • flexibility

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