- Liberalization's Children: Gender, Youth, and Consumer Citizenship in Globalizing India
Ritty Lukose's Liberalization's Children is an excellent ethnographic exploration of the cultural politics of globalization in post-liberalization Kerala. It stands out in two ways. First, Lukose pays attention to the local dimensions of globalization, showing how it affects those generally considered to be on the margins of globalization. Second, she examines how young people experience globalization and its attendant cultural practices. As Sunaina Maira has said, " research on globalization has not intersected deeply enough with that on youth culture" (2004:205), and this book makes a valuable contribution to the small (but steadily growing) body of scholarship on youth and globalization.
Lukose provides a broad perspective on globalization by examining it "as experience, as practice, and as discourse" (7). She also offers a much-needed counter to the popular idea that the experience of globalization and liberalization is denied to some groups (such as rural people) while available to others (such as urban, cosmopolitan populations). Drawing on [End Page 705] the marginalized—but nevertheless powerful—experiences of youth in Kerala, Lukose emphasizes the everyday practices of the global at the local level, demonstrating that there is more to globalization than the broader, dominant, national discourses through which it is commonly discussed. The book moves in the chronological terrain between midnight's children (the generation of post-Independence India) and contemporary youth, whom Lukose calls " liberalization's children."
Lukose uses the framework of consumption practices to examine ideas of citizenship and democracy. She effectively juxtaposes "consumer citizenship" (7) with youth and education to show that consumer practices are a critical part of negotiating belonging, as citizens, in the era of globalization. She also suggests that young people do not simply consume globalized culture—youth identities are also products of the flow of commodities and ideas that mark globalization. Observing that education is an arena for the social construction of citizenship, Lukose shows how the college experiences of young men and women can tell us a lot about gender, class, and caste in citizenship and in public life in India.
The book is divided into five chapters, not including the introduction and conclusion. Lukose begins by discussing how Kerala is particularly salient as a site for examining non-dominant experiences of globalization and development because of its large, non-elite emigrant population. However, she argues against a "notion of exceptionalism" (52) where Kerala is projected as a model that the rest of the world could adopt. Lukose notes that the dominant discourse of development in Kerala suggests that the fruits of development, such as quality of life, are accessible to all its citizenry across caste, class, or gender lines. She questions this by examining the correlation between education and modernization (a critical part of the discourse of development in Kerala) through gender, exposing the complex relationships between educational and patriarchal systems by asking two very simple questions: "what are the conditions into which young women gain entry into education? and What are they being educated for?" (32).
Through the other chapters, Lukose examines the connections between globalized consumption practices, citizenship in public spaces, education, and gender through the lenses of fashion, romance, politics, caste, and language. Women's participation in public, consumer spaces (and discourses) is marked by gendered constraints. Participation in these spaces thus becomes a complex process located at the boundaries of private and [End Page 706] public, masculine and feminine, and " traditional" and "modern." Lukose notes that globalization, in local contexts, becomes a " 'folk' category...an explicit object of contestation and negotiation within everyday contexts" (205) and effectively demonstrates that globalized consumption, far from being homogeneous or homogenizing, is inflected in very particular ways in localized practice.
One issue that could have been addressed in more detail is that of examining globalization in terms of consumption. Far too much work on globalization in India in academic as well as non-academic writing, focuses on the consumption-related aspects of globalization, and there is a need to devote more scholarly...