Labouring Poor in Delhi: The Meanings, Relationships, and Politics of Accumulation

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Sanjeev ROUTRAY, Northeastern University, USA
The paper attempts to conceptualize informal and precarious labor markets through three overlapping analytical perspectives: a) hegemonic meaning constructions of work: ‘dirty work’, ‘licit and illicit work’, ‘leisure work’, ‘time pass work’ that reproduce forms of capital accumulation b) building and deployment of non-economic relationships in the accumulation processes, and c) modes of accumulation processes as a consequence of judicial interventions, political arrangements, and economic improvisations. Drawing on ethnographic research over two extended periods (between 2010 and 2011 and in 2017) in Delhi, I examine the gendered, caste, and working biographies over time and space. I will be attentive to the temporal and spatial logics by analyzing various forms of violence, cooption, and resistance improvisations inherent in the informal labor markets. Apart from caste and regional networks that shape labor market negotiations, I analyze the non-economic relationships with local actors and intermediaries that define accumulation through deployment of various forms of capital and the contours of working lives. In particular, I will explore how the poor survive precarity by a range of incremental accumulation practices. Further, I explore how judicial interventions (especially with respect to the overlapping concerns of industrial closures, pollution control, and street vendors), political involvement through mediations and rent seeking practices, and working improvisations operate within the sphere of informal and precarious work. My empirical findings will provide insights into the linkages between hegemonic meaning constructions of work, forging of social relationships, and political negotiations concerning informal and precarious work. I also explore the contingencies and the relative autonomy of various domains that interact and shape labor market, surplus accumulation, and the working lives of the poor.