Dissertation Abstracts

Precarity, Politics, and Labor: A Study of Interstate Migrant Workers in India

Author: Sandeepan Tripathy , sandeepantripathy@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: National University of Singapore , Singapore
Supervisor: Maunaguru Sidharthan
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: ENGLISH

Keywords: Precarity , Labor , Politics , India
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Migration , labour market


My research explores the lives of Odia Migrant workers in Surat's textile Industries. There is scant research on Odia migrant workers who form the largest group in Surat's textile industry and are responsible for Surat's meteoric rise as the Silk Capital of India. Existing research shows migrant workers as being among the urban poor, informal laborers, or the precariat. It predominantly focuses on the instrumental and structural side of the labor in the textile economy and places the migrant workers as helpless victims of exploitative labor regimes. I aim to show another side by addressing the agency of migrant workers in a context where labor, politics, and precarity intersect with a focus on possibilities, capacities, and creativities. I will focus on the non-tangible elements of migrant lives. For this my research firstly seeks to understand in what forms or what aspects of precarity do migrant workers experience. Secondly, I will analyze if and how the experience creates some form of political for them. Finally, I will explore how they think of their labor and see value in it. Using ethnography and photo-elicitation, I aim to bring out the accounts of migrant workers on their migration journey, their daily lives in Surat, and their family back home in Aska, focusing on how they articulate their emotions through visual and verbal cues. Through my research, I hope to rethink how precariousness creates possibilities in understanding concepts like labor and politics that complicate how everyday unfolds for interstate migrant workers within India.