Politics of Work: Locality, Migration and Precariousness in Mumbai

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandlingForskning

The labour market in India is currently undergoing a critical transition. The past two decades of industrial closures, agrarian stagnation and an increase in the proportion of the working-age population has surfaced the sphere of work as the prime domain of political contestations. This phenomenon can be particularly witnessed in urban centres like Mumbai, a megacity of over 21 million inhabitants, where work requiring low entry-level skills – like that of security guards, domestic workers and daily wage workers – has emerged as an everyday site of competition and antagonism. How do workers secure jobs in this intensely competitive labour market? What kind of strategies, networks and modes of self-making are deployed to access work opportunities? Drawing upon a 12-month-long fieldwork in Mumbai, Politics of Work shows how the labour market tends to be polarized around local–migrant politics wherein Marathi workers fashion themselves as sthaaniya (settled, rooted, local) to distinguish themselves from migrant workers and claim the first right to work in Mumbai. The study moves beyond two dominant theoretical views on the employment question in India, which frame the politics of work as that of either ‘waiting’ or ‘welfare’. Putting the focus squarely back on ‘work’, this study considers the narratives of workers who could neither wait for better jobs nor depend wholly on state welfare. Further, arguing against the exclusive focus on migration and mobility as a strategy to negotiate the insecurity of work, the study discusses how ‘languages of locality’ are evoked by workers, as they produce associations with the city – its spaces and its history – to access and keep jobs in a competitive market of urban work. The ethnography conducted in Mumbai shows that even as workers align themselves to the regional state’s history of linguistic nationalism (around the Marathi language), their claims are not preexistent or drawn from any singular nativist political party or discourse; these need to beactively and repeatedly produced. In particular, their political self-fashioning as ‘localworkers’, repurposes the identity of the 20th century industrial workers of Mumbai (the kamgaar), who were known for their collective action and have come to be celebrated in the public memory as both respectable and dangerous.
ForlagDet Humanistiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet
Antal sider218
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2019

Note vedr. afhandling

Ph.d. afhandling forsvaret 11. juni 2019

ID: 222254372