Language(s) of 'empowerment': reflections on agency, desire and politics
Gurpreet Kaur


The ‘empowered’ woman has captured the imagination of the development state, in astonishing ways, that brings under its purview a rather exploitative understanding of ‘power’, a sense of ‘agentic power’ that is aimed to be brought, for her to be ‘rescued’ from her powerlessness. Based on the belief that she is always already “excluded” and disempowered, the discourses of ‘empowerment’ aim to “include” her, in enclosing her life within the nation state. How and why does this ‘woman’ become apparently a significant ‘entity’ for the ‘developed’ (and developing) nation and what is the (critical) nature of this ‘empowered’ woman subject remains the import of this work. Whether she is ‘excluded’ and necessarily shaped for a troubling kind of ‘inclusion’, seeks to question the problem of a simple exclusion and inclusion of the woman as ‘disempowered’ and ‘empowered’. The paper also opens up the presence of ‘desire’ in the woman, indicating to the dispassionate, detached recourse taken by development in ‘empowering’ the women’s lives.

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