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Accepted Paper:

Nativism at Work: Domestic workers and the claim to being local in Mumbai  


Maansi Parpiani (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Marathi-speaking domestic workers from Dalit caste groups in Mumbai use nativist vocabularies to fashion themselves as more trust-worthy and local than migrant workers. By securing long-term domestic work, they and their families seek to reproduce themselves as the city's respectable working-class.

Paper long abstract:

The labour market for domestic work in Mumbai is highly competitive, with old - new, young - old, local - migrant women, contending for the same jobs. Marathi workers, speaking the regional language, re-purpose nativist vocabularies and fashion themselves as more trust-worthy than migrant workers who come to Mumbai from other regions in India.

Studies of nativist politics in Mumbai have been limited to the Shiv Sena, the political party with a sons-of-the-soil agenda for Marathi-speakers. The everyday claims of 'being Marathi' in Mumbai, outside of the realm of political parties, reveals the internal faultlines within the category. I show how workers from Dalit and other disadvantaged caste groups deploy broad nativist differentiations to establish affinity to being 'kamgaar', to being members of the Marathi working-class. These claims are notwithstanding the fact that the kamgaar movement, constituting the organised textile and dock workers of the 20th century largely excluded Dalit and women workers. I draw from Veena Das's conceptualisation of engagements with temporality as active work that are not limited to the realm of performance or nostalgia, and argue that workers re-work their past, to get ahead in the labour market in the present. This occurs at multiple sites - in the home where the family is sought to re-fashion as a conscientious working-class family, and where daughters are inducted into domestic work. In the union protests, where the colloquial term 'bai' ('woman' in Marathi) is sought to be replaced by the Marathi term for wage domestic workers, 'gharelu kamgaar'.

Panel P100
Rethinking work, power and social reproduction in and beyond Europe [Anthropology of Labour Network]