More than ninety percent of India’s workforce finds uncertain livelihoods through informal work: agricultural labor, construction, street vending, transportation, waste picking, sex work, and domestic labor, to name but a few. While the employment challenge—10 million jobs a year—that confronts countries like India is humbling, the existing scholarship in fields like labor studies, urban geography, rural sociology, and feminist studies has been resolutely economistic. With few exceptions, it has had little to say about the experiences, life-making activities (poïesis), and desires of the men and women, many from historically subordinated caste groups, who toil in India’s cities even as they remain enmeshed with ongoing lives in their villages.
This workshop brings together scholars based in the US and India who are engaged in research breaking new ground in how to think about the contours of informal economies in India and beyond. We call for a radically new intellectual approach to the life-worlds of denizens of informal economies: specifically, a humanistic approach that does not take for granted commonly employed dualisms such as formal and informal, urban and rural, and production and reproduction. This discussion-heavy workshop will be organized around four thematic clusters:
1. Interiority of selfhood
2. Habitations of time and space
3. Entanglements of production and reproduction
4. Mutual imprint of the country and the city
The workshop includes comparative analyses of informality in the US, South Korea, and China. It concludes with a session on public scholarship and technologies of communication to communicate our research to concerned communities effectively. We plan to publish public-minded online essays after the workshop.
Friday, December 1
9:30-10:30 AM Keynote Address
Anant Maringanti (Director, Hyderabad Urban Labs)
10:45 AM-12 PM Panel 1: Interiority of Selfhood
Lalit Batra (University of Minnesota) and Aarti Sethi (Brown University)
1-2:15 PM Panel 2: Habitations of Time and Space
Tariq Tatchil (Vanderbilt University) and Naveeda Khan (Johns Hopkins University)
2:30-3:45 PM Panel 3: Entanglements of Production and Reproduction
Svati Shah (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Dolly Daftary (University of Massachusetts, Boston), Vinay Gidwani
(University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), and Priti Ramamurthy (UW)
Saturday, December 2
9:30-10:45 AM Subaltern Life-Worlds, Public Scholarship and Technologies of Communication
Bhashwati Sengupta (Hyderabad Urban Labs), Anant Maringanti (UW), Sasha Welland (UW), Michelle Habell-Pallán (UW),
and Kemi Adeyemi (UW)
11 AM-12:15 PM Comparative Perspectives on Subaltern Lifeworlds: China, South Korea, India, and the United States
Shuxuan Zhou (Berlin Freie University), Jiwoon Yu-Lee (UW), and Amy Piedalue (Australia India Institute and
University of Melbourne)
1:30-3:30 PM Panel 4: Mutual imprint of City and Country
Sushmita Rishi (UW) and Manish Chalana (UW), Sunila S. Kale (UW), and Radhika Govindarajan (UW)
Speaker bios and more information at simpsoncenter.org/subaltern-life-worlds.
Organized by Priti Ramamurthy (Professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, University of Washington) and Vinay K. Gidwani (Professor of Geography and Global Studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities). Sponsored by Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, the South Asia Center of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, and the Simpson Center for the Humanities.