ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

T VenkatSubscribe to T Venkat

Housing, Homes and Domestic Work

Drawing from a study of work and livelihoods in Kannagi Nagar, Chennai's largest resettlement site, this paper reflects on paid domestic work as one among a limited range of occupations available to unskilled women workers in urban areas. It takes a spatial approach to analysing markets for urban domestic work, where issues of location, distance, travel, and timings are found to determine the opportunities for employment. In addition, it looks at domestic work against the background of larger employment markets for low-skilled female workers, and the range of options and preferences that frame it.

The Spatial Reproduction of Urban Poverty

How do mass slum resettlement programmes in expanding megacities contribute to the reproduction of urban poverty? Chennai's premier resettlement colony, Kannagi Nagar, housing slum-dwellers evicted from the city since 2000 has integrated itself into the industrial, commercial and software economies of the information technology corridor on unfavourable terms, swelling the supply of unskilled casual workers for local firms. This article highlights, from the vantage point of workers in the resettlement colony, how the restructuring processes of large formal sector companies within the "new economy" exploit conditions created by the state's slum clearance policies, to enhance the precariousness of work for residents of resettlement sites. It highlights issues of quality of work for casual workers in the formal sector and their role in the production, persistence and reproduction of working poverty. It thereby illustrates how the restructuring of urban space by new imperatives of urban capital, through the peripheralisation of both industrial establishments and working classes, creates new socio-spatial configurations of work and poverty.

The Politics of Civil Society: Neighbourhood Associationism in Chennai

Scholarly work portrays Residents Welfare Associations as constituting an exclusively middle class "civil society" in urban polities structured overwhelmingly by class. In this view, rwas belong to a new politics representing an emerging partnership between civil society, the reforming state and private capital, aimed at reclaiming urban governance from the messy dealings of electoral democracy. The urban poor, meanwhile, are perceived as organised predominantly through the sphere of politics. This paper, using survey and ethnographic data on neighbourhood associations in Chennai, argues that these accounts are over-schematised. There are considerable overlaps between civil and political society: the urban poor increasingly resort to civil associational forms to claim urban citizenship, and middle class associations are more deeply engaged with the sphere of formal politics than their own or scholarly accounts convey.
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