Publication details [#67686]

Tripathy, Jyotirmaya. 2017. The development language: BPL category and the poverty discourse in contemporary India. Social Semiotics 28 (3) : 396–411.
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The paper highlights the complex relationship between development and language and argues that poverty as a condition of underdevelopment is materialized in representation. Instead of limiting the scope of the topic to the rhetorical aspects of development thought, it is proposed that development language produces a specific reality of poverty while writing about it. Using a post-structuralist framework and drawing from various Planning Commission reports on poverty lines, the paper goes on to implicate these reports in the production of authoritative knowledge and the elision of the poor. Through the identification of the cut-off line, which distinguishes the poor from the non-poor, these reports control our ways of knowing and suspend our ability to imagine poverty in any non-institutional manner. Such representation not only omits poor’s everyday experience and converts poverty as experience to poverty as knowledge, but also predicates its objectivity on such elision. The paper also highlights the slippages and contradictions in these reports, and shows how in the seeming inevitability of poverty knowledge, people find innovative ways to appropriate and disrupt it.