Containment of Labour in South Asia

CFP: panel in Lund, Sweden

Call for Papers for a Panel at the 18th European Association of Modern South Asian Studies Conference in Lund, Sweden, July 6-9 2004

Empires, Nationalisms and the Containment of Labour in South Asia: Historical and Contemporary Issues

Convenors: Ravi Ahuja (Heidelberg University) and Benjamin Zachariah (Sheffield University)

This panel seeks to look at interrelated processes of state and class formation that conditioned the lives of working people in the wider contexts of global capitalism and its changing national and imperial political structures, colonial and neo-colonial. We welcome contributions regarding the colonial or the postcolonial period, formal or informal empires, anti-imperialist as well as loyalist varieties of nationalism. We would like to focus on labour as a political issue and on the politics of labour (labour policy, social legislation, economic policy affecting labour, ideological constructions of labour as a social category, strategies of various political currents to harness and control labour, labour movements etc).

Several critical historical and contemporary issues could be addressed in connection with these concerns, e.g. the emergence of a colonial labour policy and its ramifications for post-colonial India, a critical assessment of the relationship between various streams of Indian nationalism and the rising labour movement between the 1920s and 1950s, economic policy in colonial and postcolonial India and its consequences for labour, the creation of a divide between "formal" and "informal" labour and the political exploitation of this divide, the fragmentation and marginalisation of the Indian trade union movement in the context of "liberalisation", the political implications of the closure of public sector units and of de- industrialisation in general, and the link between the rise of the Hindu right and "globalisation". The discursive context of varying claims to political legitimacy framed in terms of the needs of working people might also be addressed within this framework. The post-colonial state sought to give itself the image of a "benign state"; the colonial state before it tried to present itself as the protector of labour. In this context, it would be important to map out the continuities or changes in the political conceptualisation of labour across the historical boundary of 1947.

For further information please contact the convenors: and

See also the conference website: