Call for papers: AJEI – CESSMA Workshop – May 29th 2017 – Competition and solidarity networks in contemporary South Asia’s Labour Market – Paris Université Paris Diderot

AJEI – CESSMA Workshop

May 29th 2017

Paris Université Paris Diderot

Competition and solidarity networks in contemporary South Asia’s Labour Market


Yves Marie Rault, Ph.D. candidate, Université Paris Diderot & CESSMA

Floriane Bolazzi, Ph.D. candidate, Université Paris Diderot & CESSMA

Arnaud Kaba, Ph.D. candidate, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales & LISST-CAS (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Solidarités, Sociétés, Territoires, Centre d’Anthropologie Sociale)

Scientific Committee:

Isabelle Guérin (Center for Social African, , IRD & CESSMA Sciences Studies on American and Asian worlds)

Véronique Dupont, IRD (French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development) & CESSMA


[Click here to download the call for papers]

* April 9th 2017 : deadline for the submission of papers’ proposals (title + abstract max 1000 words)

* April 17th 2017 : authors will be notified about the acceptance of their proposal

* May 10th 2017 : full papers (max 10.000 words) should be submitted

* All submissions should be sent to

Hegemonic neo-liberal discourse assumes that free competition on all levels sparks a virtuous cycle of economic growth, which eventually trickles down to poor populations. Over the past three decades, the idea that restrictive labour laws hamper such competition has justified the deregulation of labour in the North and the un-regulation of labour in the South, notably in South Asia, where labour relations had already mainly been informal  (Lerche, 2012).

 Company managers claim they look at the objective categories of “merit, “abilities”, and “skills” when hiring an employee. To the contrary, empirical work in contemporary India has shown that hiring decision-making remains strongly influenced by social representations and personal ties, and is shaped by membership of specific groups (Jodhka, 2015). In South Asia, such groups and their common identities and shared practices, and their members who often act in solidarity with one other, are traditionally structured along a variety of lines, which include location, religion, ethnicity, class, caste and kinship (Harriss-White, 2007; Lachaier, 1992; Lerche, 2011; Tambs- Lyche, 2013;). In such a context, a few dominant groups with traditional involvement in trade and industry still monitor the largest portions of production, as is for instance the case in India (Naudet, 2016). Dominant peasant castes, alongside petty capitalists (Breman, Guérin, Prakash, 2009) in the rural hinterland maintain joint control over economic resources. They for instance treat the landless proletariat as a source of seasonal and casual migrant labour (Breman, 1996, Guérin, 2009; Picherit, 2009, Srivastava 2005a, 2005b).

Due to rapid urbanization and liberalization however, South Asian societies have been undergoing significant social changes. This has been transforming the construction of social groups and hierarchies in the region. With the erosion of patronage systems, oppression is slowly becoming multifaceted (Breman, Guérin Prakash, 2009). Caste and kinship ties have meanwhile never been systematically significant in the contemporary labour market. De Neve has for instance shown how, in the Tamil Nadu loom industry, family ties are often phony and kinship ethics delicate (2005). Kumar has also noted how, in the so-called ‘traditional’ (and old) artisan worlds of Varanasi, not every occupation is ruled by caste and kinship ties (1988). Leaving aside these ties, recognition of the skills of workers or owners is key in legitimizing hierarchies and social statuses in this unorganized sector’s metal industry, for example (Kaba, 2014, Ruthven 2006). As such, in these segments of labor, workers widely share and internalize ideologies of merit. Women are increasingly gaining strength, organizing through trade unions and emerging as an interest group in the labor market (Martens & Miller, 1994; Ratnam & Jain, 2002). Meanwhile worker solidarities based on type of activity, sector, or socioeconomic condition, have long been observed in South Asia (Heller, 1996; Chandavarkar, 2002).

These observations have fed into wide-ranging debates on the discriminative effects of the caste- based social order and how they have evolved through labor market reform and its articulation with the class formation process. A continuum of positions exists; some argue that caste hierarchies have evolved and reconfigured but continue to prevail, particularly through highly developed informal economy networks (Basile et Harriss-White, 2000). Béteille theorizes that castes have shifted to classes as villages have been abandoned (1992). Others argue that the effects of caste have gradually been disappearing and that the shift towards a liberal market has created new opportunities for social mobility (Panini, 1996; Srinivas, 2003).

Various sociologists have noted that intensified economic interactions and the rise of competition have made individuals more likely to activate their social networks to protect their individual interests (Jodhka, 2014). In this respect, to what extent do social networks shape relations in the diverse South Asian labour markets? How do new forms of social groupings reconfigure competition and solidarity relations? What forms of social interactions prevail, emerge and weaken in the market: chosen solidarity and inherited solidarity; inter-caste and intra-caste solidarity; class solidarity; corporate solidarity etc.?

More generally, how do market structures, which are supposedly more flexible and competitive in the current political frame, evolve and organise in line with social transformations – social heterogeneity, rural and urban social links, caste reconfiguration, and the emergence of the middle class, etc.? Conversely, how are social structures responding and recomposing in the current context of institutional de-regulation, un-regulation and informalisation?

 We invite papers from PhD candidates and post-doctoral fellows. They will be discussed by senior researchers specialized in issues related to the paper presented. Proposed papers may be theoretical or empirical, qualitative or quantitative in their approach, but must rely on in-depth knowledge of the issues discussed. Research papers relying on qualitative as well as quantitative studies on historical or contemporary relations in the Indian labour market are welcome.


Basile, E., & Harriss-White, B. (2000). Corporative capitalism: Civil society and the politics of accumulation in small town India. Oxford: Queen Elizabeth House.

Breman, J. (1996). Footloose labour: working in India’s informal economy (Vol. 2). Cambridge University Press.

Breman, J., Guérin, I., & Prakash, A. (2009). India’s Unfree Workforce. Old and New Practices of Labour Bondage, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Chandavarkar, R. (2002). The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India: Business strategies and the working classes in Bombay, 1900-1940 (Vol. 51). Cambridge University Press.

De Neve, G. (2005). The everyday politics of labour: Working lives in India’s informal economy. Berghahn Books.

Guérin, I., Bhukut, A., Marius-Gnanou, K., & Venkatasubramanian, G. (2009). Neo-bondage, seasonal migration, and job brokers: cane cutters in Tamil Nadu.

Heller, P. (1996). Social capital as a product of class mobilization and state intervention: Industrial workers in Kerala, India. World Development, 24(6), 1055-1071.

Harris-White, B., & Sinha, A. (2007). Trade liberalization and India’s informal economy. Oxford University Press.

Jodhka, S. S. (2014). Caste and Power in the Lands of Agri-Culture. Revisiting Rural North-West India.

Jodhka, S. S. (2015). Caste in contemporary India. Routledge

Kaba, A. (2014). Une culture du précariat? Devenir ouvrier journalier en Inde. Autrepart, (3), 157-173.

Kumar, N. (1988). The artisans of Banaras: Popular culture and identity, 1880-1986 (pp. 111-24). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Lachaier, P. (1992). Le capitalisme lignager assigné aujourd’hui: les marchands kutchi lohana du Maharashtra (INDE). Annales, 865-888.

Lerche, J. (2011). Agrarian crisis and agrarian questions in India. Journal of Agrarian Change, 11(1), 104-118.

Lerche, J. (2012). Labour regulations and labour standards in India: Decent work?. Global labour journal, 3(1).

Martens, M. H., & Mitter, S. (1994). Women in trade unions: Organizing the unorganized. International Labour Organization.

Naudet, J., & Dubost, C. L. (2016). The Indian exception: the densification of the network of corporate interlocks and the specificities of the Indian business system (2000–2012). Socio- Economic Review, mwv035.

Panini M.N, 1996, « The political economy of caste » In Srinivas M.N., Caste Its Twentieth Century Avata, New Delhi: Viking

Picherit, D. (2009). Entre village et chantiers: circulation des travailleurs, clientélisme et politisation des basses castes en Andhra Pradesh, Inde (Doctoral dissertation, Paris 10).

Srivastava, R. (2005a) Bonded labour in India: Its Incidence and Pattern, Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, Declaration/WP/43/2005, Geneva: ILO

Srivastava, R. (2005b) « India: Internal migration and its link with poverty and development » in International Organization for Migration (ed.) Migration, development and Poverty Reduction in Asia, Geneva: IOM

Tambs-Lyche, H. (2013). L’Entrepreneuriat au sein de la famille. Marchands et entrepreneurs en Inde. Moussons. Recherche en sciences humaines sur l’Asie du Sud-Est, (21), 123-139.

Venkata Ratnam, C. S., & Jain, H. C. (2002). Women in trade unions in India. International Journal of Manpower, 23(3), 277-292.