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City Seminar: Internal Migrant Workers and Construction Labour-Camps: The Architecture of Discipline and Control in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Dr. Sunil Kumar (LSE)
When Feb 11, 2020
from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Where Seminar Room, Department of Geography
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Labour camps housing internal migrant construction workers can be conceptualised as  ‘heterotopian’ spaces, following Foucault.  I argue that they are one point in a continuum of the architecture of discipline and control. Interventions to address the exploitative nature of the working and living conditions in labour camps are complex, not least because: (i) construction moves in space and time; and (ii) labour moves, in and out of a given project, depending on skill requirements; and (iii) labour camps make their residents invisible and hard-to-access.  In the Indian context, this complexity increases due to the regional and linguistic diversity of the migrant labour force.  Using the Urbanisation-Construction-Migration (UCM) Nexus in South Asia (Kumar and Fernandez, 2016), I use a Foucauldian lens to argue that the ‘conundrum of collective action’ emerges from an extended architecture of control and discipline: (i) pre-construction control through cash-for-work advances; (ii), in-construction labour camp control and discipline through a combination of enclosure, panopticon and appeasement; and (iii) post-construction indebtedness.  Collective action spaces are thus squeezed out of existence.

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City Seminar   Sunil Kumar