Geography and Geographic Information Science

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Pronoy Rai: Social Geographies of Seasonal Labor Migration in Rural Western India

Event Type
geography, india
Geography & GIS
Room 2049 Natural History Building, Russell Seminar Room
Apr 2, 2018   3:00 - 4:00 pm  
This event is free and open to the public.


In this dissertation, I study the seasonal migration of landless communities in rural western India. My research explains how labor migration has transformed gender, caste, and class relations in the drylands of Maharashtra state in India. I study labor migration as a social process, which accommodates the flows of capital yet expands the literature to account for the flows of ideas and norms. I conducted research for this dissertation during Summer 2014 and Summer, Fall, and early Spring 2015-16, in six villages in the drylands of Maharashtra state in western India by applying qualitative research methods, and at the archives of Giri National Labor Institute in Noida, India and Nagpur archives in Maharashtra. 


In this dissertation, I find that the impacts of seasonal labor migration on class and caste-based social relations in rural Maharashtra in labor home communities are illuminated in quotidian class and caste politics that have reconfigured rural social relations of production. Second, through a gendered spatiotemporal analysis of seasonal migration of rural laborers, I show how masculinity at the margins of the society is iteratively constructed both in opposition to dominant forms of masculinity as well as through the continued exploitation of women’s productive and reproductive labor. Lastly, by focusing on the migration infrastructure, including brokers or labor intermediaries who facilitate labor recruitment, intra-rural labor migration, and disciplining of labor on the cane fields of western India, I show how the intermediaries are embedded in the labor geographies of sugar production which belies the stereotyping of brokers as evenly exploitative. Relatedly, I also show how migration infrastructure or brokers can be a novel optic to reconcile the split within the interdisciplinary field of migration studies i.e. those between international and internal migration.

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