Thursday, August 16, 2018

Birla on philanthropy and profit in modern India

Earlier this year, Ritu Birla, University of Toronto published "C=f(P): The trust, 'general public utility,' and charity as a function of profit in India" in Modern Asian Studies (January 2018), 132-62. Here is the abstract: 
With an interest in historicizing contemporary philanthropic formations such as corporate social responsibility, this article outlines the modern Indian governmental coding of charity as a function of profit. To do so, it charts a trajectory of legal-fiscal policy on charitable tax exemption in India, especially since the 1940s. Informed by the study of vernacular capitalism, research on economization and on epistemologies of calculation, the analysis maps juridical trajectories on the idea of charity, its relationship with trade, and, more specifically, profit-making. It demonstrates how the legal mechanism of the public trust, which serves in the late nineteenth century to institutionalize a strict distinction and separation between charity and profit-making, later reconfigures and connects them by buttressing the main legal criterion for charity in India, that is, ‘general public utility’. This legal story is deployed to draw attention to philanthropy more broadly as a key terrain for research on processes of economization and neoliberal governing. At the same time, the argument also works against the grain of palimpsests in contemporary public discourse which stage a continuous and direct line from pre-colonial vernacular practices to Indian philanthropy today.
Further information is available here