Entrepreneurial Citizenship in India


Irani, L. (forthcoming) Hackathons and the Making of Entrepreneurial Citizenship. Science, Technology & Human Values.


My dissertation addressed the relationship between design and society through ethnography of the social world of a Delhi design studio. Entitled Designing Citizenship in Transnational India, the dissertation research involved one year of immersive fieldwork in India, in both English and Hindi. Supported by a Fulbright scholarship and an NSF Virtual Organizations as Sociotechnical Systems grant, I conducted daily fieldwork at the studio, and at satellite sites such as design conferences, restaurants, hackerspaces, and homes.

The dissertation showed that the studio’s specific practices enacted changing forms of middle-class Indian citizenship. To understand the role of design practice as a force for social change in India, we must consider India’s histories of engineering, class relations, and market transition. The dissertation focuses on the forms of difference and citizenship articulated through the work of the studio. The high-tech work practices at the studio produce not only designed objects, but ethical claims about post-liberalization Indian progress and selfhoods and attempts to govern and uplift through material things. The dissertation also offers an account of how design practices are shaped by broader cultural, social, and political processes, and shape those processes in turn.

I have extended this research to situated design reformers’ as one example of nation building in post-liberalization in India that looks to entrepreneurs to do the work of development.

The poster to the right is from an urban Indian conference evangelizing design thinking, in collaboration with Dutch, British, and German cultural organizations.