Through its colonial, class- and caste-based history, English in India has come to be seen as a powerful resource that opens doors for those who ‘have’ it and holds back those who do not. For women, English ostensibly offers various promises in addition to employment: progressiveness and ‘empowerment’; and the potential for upward mobility through marriage. Yet, the conversion of English capital for English-speaking Indian women proves to be intensely complex in practice, as many find themselves forced to navigate between shifting moral regimes attached to ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in an NGO in Delhi that offers free English training to ‘disadvantaged youth’, this paper explores how English capital is managed by young women striving to attain middle classness through English, and how their class, caste and gender positionings are negotiated across particular time-space configurations as they seek to become English speakers.
- social mobility