Relationships between caste/tribal identities and labour mobilisation, exploitation and activism are controversial and complex. This panel explores how collective identities have been used to control labour, and how they have been challenged, renegotiated and reclaimed by those opposing its abuse.
This panel focuses on the relationship between real and imagined caste and/or tribal identities, labour mobilisation and labour exploitation in colonial and postcolonial India, and the Indian labour diaspora. It will look at how various caste/tribal identities have been constructed by the upper-castes, colonial and postcolonial authorities, and social activists, and at how these have been deployed to control, manipulate, or oppose certain forms of labour. More importantly, it will also examine how workers themselves have utilised, contested, and reframed these ascribed identities in order to influence labour conditions, shape personal and collective outcomes, and challenge dominant narratives. Various groups have sought to (re)negotiate control over both their physical labour and their individual and collective identities, through migration, social activism, unionisation, industrial action, cultural production, and a reassertion of the dignity of labour. By exploring these processes participants will seek to move beyond persisting stereotypes and present a more fluid and historically contingent interpretation of the relationship between caste, labour and identity. Prof. Crispin Bates and Dr. Marina Carter (University of Edinburgh) - Uncasting and Recasting the Indian Labour Migrant. Dr. Andrea Major (University of Leeds) - 'Slave Castes', 'Coolies' and Colonial Discourses of 'Unfree' Labour. Dr. Charu Gupta (University of Delhi) - Dalit Masculinities: Constructing the Labouring Body in Colonial North India. Prof. William Gould (University of Leeds) - 'Criminal Tribes', Labour Mobilisation, Industrial Action and Cultural Production.