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“Is There Going to Be Another Competition Today?”

Contesting Development through Competition

Annie McCarthy


Valued for its affective and material affordances, competition has long been fundamental to children's participation in development. Despite this, the experiential and material worlds of child competitors have long been overlooked. Combining ethnographic insights from fieldwork in a Delhi NGO with archival sources and reflections on the legacies of Enlightenment philosophy, this article offers a child-centered corrective to Thomas Malaby's call to focus studies of games on institutions and their projects. Additionally, heeding Liisa Malkki's challenge to reconceptualize children as persons and not just as elementary forms of shared humanity, I argue that it is only through sustained engagement with children's experiences and material contributions to competition that we can properly understand how these frequently exceed—and trouble—institutional aims.