Accepted paper:

International mobility, knowledge and the shaping of (imagined) futures in India


Antonie Fuhse (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

Paper short abstract:

I examine how Indian students and scientists use mobility as a strategy to shape their (imagined) futures in India for which gaining knowledge and foreign degrees appear to be important. How are their present lives shaped by their hopes for the future? How is the future reshaped by the present?

Paper long abstract:

Many hopes and aspirations are connected to education in India: economic and social mobility, development of the nation and shaping of a better future. Therefore, Indian students and their families work hard and make many sacrifices to achieve good education. Migrating to other parts of the world for studying is thus one strategy to invest in the future. But what kind of hopes and aspirations do the mobile Indian students and scientists have for their futures? And how are their present lives shaped by these visions? Based on my ethnographic fieldwork in Göttingen I will show how education and the accumulation of knowledge and experience are understood as means of shaping a future in India, a future with a well-paid job and an appropriate spouse. I will demonstrate how this future is not only framed by the present live of the students and scientists but also by their past (their biography, their family background, cast, class etc.) Completing a degree, a Ph.D. or a Post-Doc in Germany or another "western" country is perceived as a requirement to create a certain imagined future in India. For the Indian students and scientists being mobile means the separation from "home" and the possibility to make new experiences, thus mobility can also stimulate the transformation of the self. What does that imply for the aspired future? How is the future reshaped in the process of mobility? What happens when the imagined future never comes into existence?

panel P57
Im)possible lives: on futures as process