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Numbing Machines

What forms does manual scavenging take after its legal abolition? Analysing the recent deaths in Bengaluru’s sewage treatment plants and underground drainage systems, the understandings of manual scavenging as an “archaic” practice and opposed to the “rule of law” are rejected. The contractualisation of sewer maintenance instrumentalises “untouchable” bodies, making the calibration of caste power coincidental with the calibration of urban sewerage. Urban manual scavenging is shown to be an emergent application of caste power that resolves ecological impasses in contemporary sewerage. The objectification of caste power in urban infrastructures nevertheless opens up new locations for politicising normative caste embodiment.
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