Accepted paper:

Building the local: politics of naka workers in Navi Mumbai


Maansi Parpiani (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Most studies on precarious work have focussed on the circular migrant worker. This paper on the daily wage labour market in New Mumbai, shows instead how workers seek to rid themselves of their migrant status, and to establish themselves as local and settled, to enhance chances of getting work.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the casual labour market in India that unfolds every morning at street corners (nakas), where low-skill workers access daily-wage work. Most studies on precarious work have focussed on the circular migrant worker (Gidwani and Sivaramakrishnan 2003; Roy 2012; Breman 2003). Through an ethnographic study of a naka in the city of Navi (New) Mumbai, this paper focusses instead on strategies of 'localisation' to negotiate precarious work. Even though the bulk of the workers at the naka are seasonal migrants, I focus on a group of workers and their attempts to fashion themselves as sthaaniya - settled and rooted. These workers migrated in the early 2000s when building activity in the new city was at its peak. I discuss how even as many of them are now skilled as painters, electricians and civic contractors, they continue to use the visibility of the space of the naka - to emphasise their contribution to the city and their privileged right to work therein. Contrary to its seemingly open-access and transparent image, the naka manifests here as a deeply political and competitive site, where newer migrants face contestations from older migrants. The latter borrow from broader anti-migrant political discourses, that have framed the identity of the 'local' around a violent form of linguistic nationalism in Mumbai. Even though devoid of overt physical aggression, the workers endorse the local- migrant faultline and the fixity of the term 'local' by attaching it to their own claims of building a new city.

back to panel N2
New geographies of work
New geographies and imaginaries of work in the Global South [paper]