Accepted Paper:

Debt: Systems of dependence and bondage in Pakistani brick kilns  


Antonio De Lauri (Chr. Michelsen Institute)

Paper short abstract:

This paper - based on fieldwork conducted in Pakistani brick kilns in Jun/July and November 2015 and February 2016 - aims to report narratives of debt and bondage, using an ethnographic perspective.

Paper long abstract:

According to most international humanitarian reports, Pakistan is considered to be one of the states where bondage and labour exploitation are most deeply entrenched, affecting the lives of millions of people. Indeed, South Asian brick kilns have long attracted the attention of both humanitarian agencies and scholars as sites of slavery-like forms of labour exploitation. Nowadays, they represent an important case study to investigate the systems of dependence and debt-relationships that characterise Southern Asian capitalism. Through an ethnographic perspective, the paper will address the following questions: Is work at the brick kiln only a phase in the person's life-cycle, or is it the whole of the debtor/worker's life? How do workers describe brick kiln labour? What role do ideas of "future" play in the lives of the bonded workers?

Panel P083
Debt: a critical reflection based on people's debts