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

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Workers’ Dissent in a Democracy

Undervalued Dissent: Informal Workers’ Politics in India by Manjusha Nair; Albany: State University of New York Press, 2016; pp 248, $85 (hardback).

An ethnographic account is often distinguished from a purely theoretical work by the conceptual stasis it can rupture and the categories it can unpack that lie hidden in academese. Manjusha Nair’s Undervalued Dissent analyses into its component elements the contentious category of workers’ politics and identifies fissures within what often seems like a monolith of workers’ demands, their successes and failures. The author effectively demonstrates how similar strategies and tactics deployed by workers can produce divergent results and identifies multiple reasons for this divergence. The book disabuses the reader of any straightforward narrative of workers’ politics and instead calls for a multidimensional understanding of labour activism through a context-specific periodisation of workers’ politics in India.

The book draws from Nair’s fieldwork in the industrial heartland of Bhilai, one of the “temples of modern India” as it is often called, in Chhattisgarh (erstwhile Madhya Pradesh). Her analysis is illuminated by her experiences in two sites in industrial Chhattisgarh, in and around Bhilai. One site is the Dalli–Rajhara mining township, about 80 kilometres from the Bhilai steel township, and the other is the Associated Cement Company (ACC) township in Jamul, an industrial town located right outside the city limits of Bhilai.

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Updated On : 30th Jul, 2017


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