Telling stories, washing hands

Exploring the role of narrative in development programmes targeting children

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the role of narrative in development programmes targeting children and the powerful way narrative acts as both a tool of, and justification for, participation of child subjects in development globally. Taking the example of one handwashing promotion campaign in Delhi, India, this article, through a close reading of several texts produced by children in the course of the campaign, explores the different ways development workers and children value and utilize narrative skills for their own ends. In particular, the way that narrative techniques learnt within the non-governmental organization are used by children to defer the kinds of scrutiny and assumptions about their hygiene practices that come with being the target of a handwashing promotion campaign. Through a discussion of the various historical and contemporary trajectories that make handwashing promotion a favoured task of development organizations globally, I explore the way childrens texts navigate a complex terrain of concerns from colonial biopolitics to advertising, germ theory to pollution and purity discourses. In exploring the context of childrens narrative production, I hope to bring into sharper focus the way children accept narrative challenges and how they craft stories that play a dual role, speaking both to development concerns but also to their own life projects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-416
Number of pages16
JournalSouth Asian History and Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


Cite this