Thursday, July 21, 2016

26 July 2016: Workshop on Geographies of care and intimacy: Early insights from oral histories of informal sector migrants in Delhi and Hyderabad

Vinay Gidwani, Priti Ramamurthy, Sunil Kumar and Lokesh

A key insight of recent social science scholarship on India is the paucity of reliable formal sector employment, compelling a very large portion of India’s workforce to find uncertain livelihoods in an assortment of rural and urban informal sector work, the latter consisting of construction, street vending, petty retail, transportation, waste picking, sex work, and domestic service labor to name but a few venues. This vast population has been variously characterized as a “wasteland of the dispossessed” (Sanyal 2007), a state of “wageless life” (Denning 2010), a “surplus population” (Smith 2011), a “precariat” (Standing 2011), and a “floating reserve army” (Breman 2013). Possibly because the employment challenge that confronts countries like India with its vast youth demographic is so humbling, the existing scholarship in fields like labor studies, urban geography, rural sociology, and feminist studies has been resolutely economistic. With few exceptions, it has had little to say on the experiences, life-making activities and desires of the men and women, who toil in India’s cities even as they remain enmeshed with ongoing lives in their villages. While there is every reason to be perturbed by the looming employment challenge that confronts nations like India what is conspicuously scarce in this litany of gloom are humanizing accounts that plumb how denizens of the informal economy experience and narrate their life-worlds: their longings, desires, and indignities; their practices of care and violence; their loneliness, friendships, and found intimacies; and their conflicted attitudes to love, marriage, kinship, sex, and patriarchy.

In this seminar, we will present preliminary insights on the intimate lives of first- and second- generation rural-to-urban migrants in Delhi and Hyderabad, based on the first phase of ongoing oral historical research. Our research strives to bring humanistic insights to existing political economy scholarship on migration and employment; while it is not policy-oriented, we hope it can indirectly inform policy initiatives on informal sector work and urbanization.

Date: July 26, 2016
Time: 03:45 P.M.

Conference Hall
Centre for Policy Research,
Dharma Marg, Chanakyapuri,
New Delhi–110021(INDIA)


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