CAPABILITIES INSIDE FOUR WALLS : A qualitative field study on the capabilities and freedoms for women in a developing context challenging the approach of Amartya Sen

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsstudier (SS); Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsstudier (SS)

Abstract: The ‘’capability approach’’, developed by the Indian economist Amartya Sen, has been widely used in the field of development and has contributed a perception of development that is different from the traditional understanding of it. Despite this, the theory has received a great amount of feminist critique and it has been concluded that the field lacks empirical data on how women in developing countries can be fully understood from the approach of Sen. This field study aims at filling this gap of empirical data as well as to examine how well Sen’s approach can contribute to the understanding of women in a developing context. Responses such as the one of Martha Nussbaum and other feminist critique of Sen is examined using a field study on poor women conducted in the state of Karnataka, India. The collection of data has been conducted through interviews with urban poor women as well as with women working with women empowerment at a local organization. Participant observation in the field has been complementary to the interviews. This study reveals that Sen’s capability approach is incomplete to some extent in order to understand the situation of women in a developing context. This lack of understanding is further completed with Nussbaum’s work. Finally, the modern feminist critique against both Sen and Nussbaum shows a lack of analysis in them both in terms of intersectionality and power.

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