The ambiguous figures of social enterprise

Gendered flexibility and relational work among the iAgents of Bangladesh


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Trained by social enterprises as objects and instruments of development, Bangladesh's female “Information Agents” adopt the gendered flexibilities implied by new entrepreneurial livelihoods. Switching among multiple roles, these entrepreneurs defy social expectations and appear as ambiguous figures. “Social enterprise” thus incorporates the morally perilous results of gendered flexibility and the contradictions between emergent ethical discourses and their business logics. Market-driven enterprise becomes an inescapable feature of development and produces “the social” as a site of capital accumulation and organizational expansion for the development elite. It also offloads the risks of manipulating social relations onto the poor entrepreneurs of poverty capitalism, who often cannot translate between market-based moral repertoires and local community notions of sociality and ethical personhood.