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Keywords:

  • suicide prevention;
  • temporality;
  • waiting;
  • children;
  • middle-class parenting;
  • ethical self;
  • consumerism;
  • time–space compression;
  • late capitalism;
  • south India

ABSTRACT

This article examines suicide prevention among children in India's “suicide capital” of Kerala to interrogate the ways temporalization practices inform the cultivation of ethical, life-avowing subjects in late capitalism. As economic liberalization and migration expand consumer aspiration in Kerala, mental health experts link the quickening of material gratification in middle-class parenting to the production of insatiable, maladjusted, and impulsively suicidal children. Experiences of accelerated time through consumption in “modern” Kerala parenting practice reflect ideas about the threats of globalization that are informed both by national economic shifts and by nostalgia for the state's communist and developmentalist histories, suggesting that late capitalism's time–space compression is not a universalist phenomenon so much as one that is unevenly experienced through regionally specific renderings of the past. I demonstrate how experts position the Malayali child as uniquely vulnerable to the fatal dangers of immediate gratification, and thus exhort parents to retemporalize children through didactic games built around the deferral of desires for everyday consumer items. Teaching children how to wait as a pleasurable and explicitly antisuicidal way of being reveals anxieties, contestations, and contradictions concerning what ought to constitute “quality” investment in children as temporal subjects of late capitalism. The article concludes by bringing efforts to save elite lives into conversation with suicide prevention among migrants to draw out the ways distinct vulnerabilities and conditions of precarity situate waiting subjects in radically different ways against the prospect of self-destruction.