Our paper re-considers the agrarian question in urban India by focusing on the social reproduction of labor in informal economy households. Based on life histories of working-class women of rural origin, we explore lived forms of differentiation within the informal economy, the social division of labor as mediated by intersecting lines of difference, and possibilities of disorienting normative hierarchies through acts of ‘cultural production’. Our term ‘middle migrants’ characterizes households that have managed to establish a foothold in cities, even as they remain enmeshed in their rural lives through translocal householding and cultural dispositions to difference.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS); American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS).
Previous iterations of this paper have benefited from the comments of colloquium participants at the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies (April 2017), the Feminist Studies colloquium at the University of California, Santa Cruz (November 2017), and Henry Bernstein. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers for the Journal of Peasants Studies, its editor Jun Borras, and the editors of this special issue, especially Mike Levien. Anant Maringanti and Bhashwati Sengupta at Hyderabad Urban Lab were indispensable interlocutors, as too Partho Mukhopadhyay and Mukta Naik at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. We are also indebted to the writer Kuppili Padma for her insights into the lives of women in Hyderabad. Sunil Kumar and Lokesh in Delhi, and Akash Kumar Burman and Srujana Boddu in Hyderabad were stellar research assistants. We gratefully acknowledge support from the American Council of Learned Societies in 2015–16 and the American Institute of Indian Studies in 2016 that enabled our joint research. Our foremost thanks are reserved for the generous people in Delhi and Hyderabad who shared their life histories with us, often over multiple sittings. Their kindness continues to humble us.
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- Agrarian question
- informal economy
- middle migrants
- social reproduction