The Labour transversal programme at the IFP was conceived for two objectives. One is to build and orient distinct inquiries towards studies of labour in both historical and contemporary aspects, cutting across disciplines. Second, was to integrate and bring to focus certain shared concerns about labour in the ongoing work pursued at the Institute. With respect to the political economy of labour, the LAKSHMI Project in the Department of Social Sciences continues to study changes in labour markets through the prism of migration and skills, as well as credit and rising indebtedness in labouring households. The pressing need to understand the fast changing relationship between credit, working women and alienation in tune with changing world of finance technologies, its immersion into social relations and grounding in development institutions continue to constitute our focus on Labour.

Another emerging focus on Labour is to study forms of labour and knowledge production in particular ecologies. This research shall bring together historical and anthropological inquiry onto this interconnected landscape of social relations of labour mediated by the changing dynamics of water, land and crops such as rice production in the deltaic and coastal landscapes in south India.

One another area of study is the nascent programme to bring together the social studies of craft, labour and Science in India. Bracketed as embodied, cultural and material practice, traditional [craft] knowledges elude theoretical tools of analysis that seek to understand and grasp their historical, epistemological and social aspects. Such knowledges remain essential and thriving, providing identity, forming community, as well as are a source for large scale livelihoods through serious production for a globalising market. Yet discussions on the nature of traditional craft knowledges focus on a linear deterministic trajectory of defeat to modern Science and Technology that while being a fair representation of the past, unwittingly doom ‘other’ ways of knowing to extinction in the future. We start from the point that such knowledges are deeply embedded in our society, as modes of existence that are generative in sustaining economies, diversity and the cultural ecology of the Indian imagination. We propose a research foundation/platform to understand such ‘Culture’, as source of diversity, community and livelihood; as epistemology, as well as political economy.

So, in effect, the emerging themes in this transversal include Credit and Labour; Migration, Skills and Labour Dynamics, Epistemologies of Artisanal and Craft Labour; Resource Landscapes and Labour Transformations in the Delta and Coasts.

Contact: Senthil Babu