Framing Entitlements, Framing Inequality: How State Policies on Food and Care Enable Women to Challenge or Adapt to Inequality
This dissertation examines the role state-society dynamics play in influencing how people negotiate inequality. In particular, I analyze the interdependent relationship between state policies and the frames people use to interpret unequal access to food and care. While state policies shape people’s frames, people also negotiate with state policies to deploy frames that either challenge or adapt to inequality. Using in-depth observations, policy documents, and 50 semi-structured interviews with mothers, Anganwadi workers (childcare workers), union leaders, and state representatives associated with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), a welfare program in India, I show that state-society dynamics are central to how inequality is sustained and challenged. When welfare policies encourage collectivization, disadvantaged groups appropriate policy frames to strengthen entitlement frames and in the process, challenge inequality. I refer to this mechanism as frame appropriation. In contrast, policies such as privatization encourage individualization, particularly in economically mobile groups, who then adopt neoliberal frames such as personal responsibility and choice, to weaken entitlement frames through a mechanism I call reactive adoption. Thus, alongside social movements that has made possible historically significant policy reforms, the path to social change also comes alive in daily interactions where policies mediate people’s everyday lives.