Hannah Carlan

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Los Angeles, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9521

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Carlan, Hannah A., U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'The Semiotic Life of Empowerment: Multilingualism and Development Practice in North India,' supervised by Dr. Alessandro Duranti

HANNAH CARLAN, then a graduate student at University of California, Los Angles, California, was awarded a grant in October 2017 to aid research on “The Semiotic Life of Empowerment: Multilingualism and Development Practice in North India,” supervised by Dr. Alessandro Duranti. Retitled “‘No One is Poor in Himachal’: Language and Development in the Rural Himalayas,” this dissertation traces the linguistic life of rural development in the densely multilingual Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, India. Situated at the nexus of linguistic and sociocultural anthropology, the project demonstrates how state bureaucrats, NGO workers, and rural farmers use their multilingual communicative repertoires to reproduce or contest the ubiquitous claim that Himachal is an exceptional developmental success — a place where “no one is poor.” Widely lauded as India’s newest leader in “inclusive growth,” the state’s dramatic rise in the development indexes has been simultaneously accompanied by declining agricultural productivity, record-high unemployment, and increasing climatic instability. The dissertation engages such paradoxical claims of developmental success amidst rising economic and environmental uncertainty by asking: How is such exceptionalism maintained? That is, how do bureaucrats and NGO workers cultivate, establish, and interpret developmental success through their everyday work? Based on 21 months of ethnographic fieldwork, the grantee argues that Himachal’s exceptionalism emerges through the sustained linguistic labor of development workers who reproduce narratives of developmental success in their everyday interactions with villagers. This process exacerbates existing precarity amongst farmers in Himachal who are continuously positioned as “not poor” and thus undeserving of state care in the form of material entitlements.