British Association for South Asian Studies

News & Events

01 September 2015

CfP: Redefining Labour Roles in a Globalizing India

Key Theme: Labour anomalies and contradictions of a growing economy.

Date: October 2015
Venue: New Delhi, India

Abstract Submission: 200-500 words (with author’s name and full affiliation) to be submitted by January 1st 2015 to Shalini Grover:

This conference will probe how labour roles are being redefined in a globalizing India. While there has been much emphasis on India’s ‘emerging work and entrepreneurial cultures’ our interest pertains to labour ‘anomalies’ and ‘contradictions’ that have gone unnoticed in the anthropological corpus, as well as in national macro trends. We perceive labour roles and relations to be a wide field in India, where transformations in the informal and formal sectors may be antithetical to notions of ‘progressive’ social development 1) Our focus lies in foregrounding features such as ‘sliding down the labour hierarchy’ (e.g. reduced status or social position) as a matter of individual choice or necessity. For example, following the publication of the 2004-5, National Sample Survey Data (NSSO), the domestic service sector has prompted a provocative debate on the female labour force participation and existing labour laws. Domestic work is currently one of the largest growing sectors for female employment in India. This low-status and stigmatized occupation is diversifying into specialized markets such as ‘care work’, ‘nursing,’ etc. The labour market is supported by training institutes, NGOs, and entrepreneurs who encourage skill enhancement. How do modern domestic workers (simultaneously labeled as ‘servants’) perceive their new subjectivities in a transmuting labour market? 2) Furthermore, paradigms that problematize labour roles beyond ‘normative exploitation’ and ‘gender hierarchy’ will add substance to our analysis. Informal sector jobs allied with feudal dependency and exploitation need re-visiting in light of men and women exercising newly available options and enacting aspirations in the contemporary liberalizing moment. Similarly, sectors such as IT (information technology) are associated with youth and sexual liberation, while women’s entry (or incorporation) into male dominated family owned business is normally conceptualized as a conservative step. 3) Of significance, is whether cohorts of workers have moved to other occupations or adopted new identities such as from hereditary to non-hereditary fields. We seek explorations on forms of resistance in relation to identity and everyday labour, especially amongst subaltern groups, minorities, and the lowest castes. 4) Another area is subcontracting practices between the formal and the informal sector. In the recent years some evidence suggests that large scale subcontracting from the formal sector has introduced quality control in the informal sector which in turn has encouraged entrepreneurs in the informal sector to employ workers on regular terms - 'regularity in the irregular sector.' Whether this has led to improvement in work conditions is a question that needs to be examined. 5) Papers should preferable be based on detailed ethnography, work-life histories, narratives, biographies, multi-disciplinary analytical connections, and historical analysis. 6) We invite a diversity of ideas (e.g. contexts of migration, globalization, diaspora), and are open to queries from contributors.’