Preliminary Programme

Wed 12 April
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    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Thu 13 April
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    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Fri 14 April
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    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00
    16.30 - 18.30

Sat 15 April
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    11.00 - 13.00
    14.00 - 16.00

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Wednesday 12 April 2023 14.00 - 16.00
D-3 ASI04 History of Labour and Commodities in Asia
B21
Network: Asia Chair: Nandini Gooptu
Organizers: Nandini Gooptu, Sneha Krishnan Discussants: -
Moderators: -
Komal Chauhan : Mapping ‘Weapons of the Weak’ among Dalit Women Agricultural Labourers in Western Uttar Pradesh
Peasant resistance is often documented when it takes overt forms like strikes, demonstrations or full-fledged social movements. The everyday, quotidian and unexceptional form of peasant resistance which is often covert in nature is often missed out while taking into account the processes of social change. This not only keeps us ... (Show more)
Peasant resistance is often documented when it takes overt forms like strikes, demonstrations or full-fledged social movements. The everyday, quotidian and unexceptional form of peasant resistance which is often covert in nature is often missed out while taking into account the processes of social change. This not only keeps us oblivious of the politics of the marginalised but also the ways in which they challenge the dominant discourses. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in two villages in Muzaffarnagar district of Western Uttar Pradesh this paper seeks to explore the everyday forms of resistance of Dalit women agricultural labourers against the capitalist agrarian structure designed along the exploitative institution of caste. Adopting James Scott’s (1985) framework to conceptualise ‘everyday resistance’, this paper explores the ways in which Dalit women primarily engaged as daily wage agriculture labourers in the fields of the landed upper caste Rajputs resist oppression. Building an argument based on the critique of Scott that peasants have an inbuilt agency to resist domination, the paper tries to elaborate on the processes of social changes in Western Uttar Pradesh which have led to an increased political consciousness of the Dalits in the region. It has been argued that the abolition of the zamindari landlord system, symbolic politics of the Bahujan Samaj Party, increased levels of education among Dalits and outmigration from the village has led to a shift in the traditional relationship between the low caste agricultural labourers and the upper caste landed farmers. Scholars have focused on these social processes for the Dalit community as a whole, without taking into cognizance the nuances of gender. I argue in this paper that these processes of social change need to be looked at from a gendered lens. There has been an increase in the political sensibilities of Dalit women to a great extent owing to an enhancement of Dalit politics in the region in the past few decades but the material conditions at ground has continued their dependency on the upper caste landed farmers which has also put limits on their resistance. I argue that although there has been no organised resistance from the Dalit women agricultural labourers against the upper caste employers in the region it does not show a lack of comprehension of their exploitation, rather the ability to calculate the risks involved in confronting authority is symbolic of their political thought. The fieldwork context marked by little possibilities of outmigration of Dalit women from the village, patriarchal norms which restrict the labour market for them, intertwining of labour relations and debt reproduce the marginality of Dalit women agricultural labourers. It is within this context that Dalit women adopt more individual and subtle ways to challenge oppression on an everyday basis. It is argued that these strategies might not bring about a substantial change in the material basis of exploitation but Dalit women surely carve out spaces for themselves within the system by asserting their claims on an everyday basis. (Show less)

Sagarika Naik : Imperial Power, Race and the Intimacy in Asian Port Cities
The variety of the migrant populations of Southeast Asia’s port
cities was also reflected in the sex trade. Many of the Japanese
prostitutes (Karayuki-san) in Southeast Asia, for instance, served
only Japanese clients. A similar pattern was evident in Burma. The
‘Oriya hotels’ of Rangoon provided for ‘the comforts of the
thousands of Uriyas that ... (Show more)
The variety of the migrant populations of Southeast Asia’s port
cities was also reflected in the sex trade. Many of the Japanese
prostitutes (Karayuki-san) in Southeast Asia, for instance, served
only Japanese clients. A similar pattern was evident in Burma. The
‘Oriya hotels’ of Rangoon provided for ‘the comforts of the
thousands of Uriyas that pass through’ including the provision of
Oriya prostitutes. Some ‘Tamil’ brothels in Rangoon were “open
only to Chettiars, for the most part, to those Chettiars not wealthy
enough to “keep women off the weaver class from Madura
and adjacent districts of Madras presidency” as their richer
brethren did. Overall, the sex trade was no respecter of racial
boundaries. A Cantonese prostitute put it quite simply in her
testimony to a Singapore court, “ My customers are of various
nationalists, including Tamil”.

E.J.L. Andrew, Indian Labour in Rangoon.
It is often considered that the port cities around the Indian Ocean not only had a vibrant ,
outward-looking atmosphere but was a gateway between a vibrant diasporic society that revived
older circuits of the movements and ideas , and becoming a hub for Asian multiculturalism. In
the recent years, scholars frequently points out that, how Asian labour has played a
foundational role in building the modern world of global capitalism. On the other hand,
the impeccable scholarly engagement advocates that in many ways Indian Ocean rim was

characterized as a specialized flow of labour and capital, at the same time the Inter-
Asian (South/South-east Asian, north-east Asian) labour migration networks not only

expanded the empire’s territorial construction but also played an essential role in the
foundation of global capitalism around the world. While the Inter-Asian labour mobility has
emerged as a vital part of the development of the global economy, the existing literature
slow to register the gendered dimension of the migration.
Using the trans-epochal perspectives, I have elucidated that, the global migration system
created spaces that have neglected the gendered character of the migration process, with
discussing the Indian emigration to South Asia /South Asian port cities. By using these
formulations this paper is an outcome of three interrelated propositions. In the first place this
paper challenging the predominant discourse in migration studies which are ‘gender-blind’ or,
perhaps it even worse, have assumed perceptions like ‘men migrate and women stay behind’.
Second, it aims to re-visit the abstract nature of colonial labour migration networks and their
experiences using gendered lenses of investigation. It also trying to revealing connections
between genders, colonial policies relating to labour migration, the importance of various
‘spaces’ within migrant labour communities, and the construction of insidious stereotypes

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regarding migrant labours. At the last, it creates a dialogue between colonial pasts shared by
Asian societies and investigates how colonial legacies continue to influence contemporary
trends of labour mobility and labour experiences. (Show less)

Nisha Poyyaprath Rayaroth : Class Battles: Tales from Indian Circus
Circus industry in the Indian subcontinent often figures in the common sense as a place of extreme exploitation with dangerous working conditions, wretched living conditions and miserable wages. But if one looks at the history of the labour unions in India we would hardly find a circus workers’ union. We ... (Show more)
Circus industry in the Indian subcontinent often figures in the common sense as a place of extreme exploitation with dangerous working conditions, wretched living conditions and miserable wages. But if one looks at the history of the labour unions in India we would hardly find a circus workers’ union. We may bear in mind that circus flourished in North Malabar, South India along with the Communist movement and trade unions in early 20th century. Ironically, long before a circus workers’ union came into being, the circus company owners had formed an organization, All India Circus Association in 1953. Trade unionism of circus workers, and entertainment industry in general, had been limited in the west also where industrial capitalism had hit its peak. This paper explores the tumultuous history of the formation of a circus labor union in 1964, the Akhil Bharath Circus Karmachari Sangh [All India Circus Worker’s Union] organized under the tutelage of the Communist Party of India. A remarkable subsequent development was the establishment of a circus company by this labor union called the Akhil Bharath Circus; a circus owned, managed and worked by circus workers. We must not forget here that for the Communist party 1964 had been a watershed year, at the end of which the party split into two. This exciting class battle will be explored through various narratives gleaned from interviews, personal memorabilia and publications including notices, booklets and the mouthpiece publications of the worker’s union and owner’s organization, Circus Worker and Big Top respectively. Another significant aspect is the delineation between the performing artistes and other workers, an unsettling division of ‘art’ and ‘labor’, ‘high’ and ‘low’. (Show less)

Arun Thomas : Making Ganja ‘Modern’: Botanizing Cannabis in the British Madras Presidency, South India, the 1920s -1930s
Cannabis has always been dubious for its fluid relationship, often ambiguous, with the social and governmental systems. The ontological journeys of cannabis from a leisure substance to a full-fledged market commodity and a highly state-monitored drug show the complex life of cannabis in colonial India. While the colonial government tried ... (Show more)
Cannabis has always been dubious for its fluid relationship, often ambiguous, with the social and governmental systems. The ontological journeys of cannabis from a leisure substance to a full-fledged market commodity and a highly state-monitored drug show the complex life of cannabis in colonial India. While the colonial government tried to regulate the consumption and proscribe the free cultivation of cannabis at the beginning of the 20th century, at the backdrop, it set up cannabis experimental botanical gardens and seed farms to come up with hybridised cannabis seeds in the Madras Presidency. The application of botanical science in cannabis cultivation transformed the ganja from a wildly grown plant to a ‘tamed’ scientifically produced one. It is tacit that cannabis knowledge production in the Madras Presidency did not emanate ex nihilo. Instead, this paper argues that the development of botany at the global level and the establishment of agricultural colleges in the non-European regions had a synergic connection that bridged wild (Non-scientific) cultivations of ganja into the contact zones of imperial botanical science and technological application. This paper mainly looks into the discussions and practices in the three cannabis experimental botanical gardens and delineates the production of cannabis knowledge concerning the quality of seed, soil, manure, economic potency of the new hybrid variety, acclimatisation of non-local varieties, disease resistance and methods to eradicate male and monoecious plants in the Madras presidency. It also takes cannabis as a prism to fathom the interconnections between science, economy and empire. (Show less)



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