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Invitation to the 19th AJEI workshop on « Commons in Contemporary South Asia »

Invitation to the 19th AJEI workshop on

« Commons in Contemporary South Asia »

[Download the pdf program]

The organizational team of the 19th workshop of the Association des Jeunes Etudes Indianistes is pleased to inform you that this edition will be held in Krishnadas Shama Goa State Central Library, Goa (India) from 3rd to 5th of April 2017.

This year, the workshop will address the question of “Commons in contemporary South Asia”.

The “Association des Jeunes Etudes Indiennes” (AJEI) is an organization of young researchers coming from various disciplines of the human and social sciences (from masters degree to postdoctoral level) whose area of research is South Asia. Every year, a research seminar in France and a workshop in India bring students and scholars together in order to discuss the topics and papers presented.

Since 1998 the AJEI organizes an annual workshop in India with the support of international and local partners. One of the main objective of the event is to give the opportunity to the participants to exchange on their works and their experience, to get feedbacks from senior researchers and to build relationships, reinforcing thus the strong international network of researchers on South AsiaThe AJEI organizational team

Mauve Létang (Université Paris – Sorbonne, UMR ENeC) :

Karine Hochart (Université de Tours et de Chennai (Inde), UMR CITERES) :

Sughanda Singh (Institut TATA de Sciences Sociales, Mumbai, Inde) :

Arthur Cessou (EHESS, CEIAS ; Jawaharlal Nehru University, CSRD) :

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.

Appel à communications pour les Ateliers Jeunes Chercheurs 2017

cfp_2017[Télécharger l’appel à communications]

The « Association Jeunes Etudes Indiennes » is pleased to announce that the 19th workshop for young scholars will take place at Goa, India, April 3-5 2017.

This year the workshop will be held on « Commons in South Asia today ».

Please, find enclosed the call for papers. The deadline for abstract submission has been extended to January 16th 2017.

Interested researchers must send an abstract (500 to 1 000 words) in English before January 16th 2017 to the following address:


Announcement of selected papers will be sent to the author by January 31st 2017.

In case of acceptance, the full text (about 10 000 words) will be requested in English before March 10th 2017. Each presentation will be done in English, will last about 20 minutes, and will be discussed by a specialist.

Please include along with your proposal: your last name, your first name, your disciplinary field, your level study, your institution(s) of affiliation and your research topic.

Commons in South Asia today:

Generally referring to shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest, the term “commons” has come to signify a much broader set of meanings and has been appropriated over recent decades by various interest groups, whether used as a marketing strategy or as a definite political argument against the current commodification and privatization.

Historically, the concept is tied with the evolution of the relations of the modern societies to their environment, especially in terms of resources management. It developed in capitalist theory regarding its early stage coined as “primitive accumulation” consisting in enclosure of common lands in rural Western Europe. The first scholars dwelling on the question mainly tended to justify this process through the “tragedy of the commons”[1] argument, claiming that alleged open access resources were condemned to over exploitation and subsequent deterioration. In contrast to these views, the contemporaneous works on commons are derived from a critical perspective of the private property regime and tend to foster egalitarian, sustainable and grassroots approaches to resource management.[2] Above these ideological divergences, there is also a methodological distinction regarding social behavior analysis.[3] A major breakthrough of this new commons perspective is to go beyond an approach solely centered on property legal arrangements to emphasize the socialized relations to the environment and the nature of social and institutional practices involved in those interactions.

Questioning the “commons” today in South Asia, both in the theoretical and methodological debates, enables to combine environmental, spatial, and social perspectives to deepen our understanding of the evolution of various modes of socialization, management and control over resources in the subcontinent. What characterizes the commons in South Asia? How are they perceived, used, managed, preserved but also coveted and controlled? How to share uses and management of resources in socially stratified societies such as India? What are the implications in terms of governance, conflicts, inequalities? And in which ways the concept of “commons” can contribute to renew the approaches on territorial development? At the crossroads of many issues, the notion of “commons” is worth being revised and re-interrogated, particularly in the South Asian current context marked by growing resources scarcities and increasing number of territorial and identity conflicts. To mention only two of the most recent ones, reference might be made to the river water sharing conflicts between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, or between Haryana and Penjab. The ongoing illegal mining projects in forest areas of Jharkhand is another example of tensions brought by this issue. Under the realm of the state development capitalism, natural resources have been growingly linked to a wider community – the nationhood – or to private interests, possibly hampering local dwellers rights. The commons then need to be addressed in terms of social mobilization, looking at the ways the relationships between social groups and resources have been reframed – built and fed by national discourses, as well as legal regulations. Highlighting the question of multiple scales of representation, decision making, and practices at stake, the notion of commons resonates not only with issues related to rights and citizenship[4], but also to community identities and boundaries.

The workshop aims to bring together students from various disciplines to debate about this highly topical issue, to get a wider understanding of the notion of commons and the ways they are defined, characterized, protected or cornered in South Asia. We propose to contribute to a heuristic vision of commons, with the help of in-depth case studies, which could include spatial, social, cultural, economic and symbolic dimensions in the analysis.

[1] Hardin, G. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science 162. 1243–1248.

[2] Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, England. Cambridge University Press.

[3] Ostrom E. (1998), “A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action”, The American Political Science Review, vol. 92, n° 1, p. 1-22.

[4] Amin, A., Howell, P. (éd.). 2016. Releasing the commons: rethinking the futures of the commons. London. Routledge studies in human geography, 61.

[5] Baviskar A. 2011. “Cows, Cars and Cycle-rickshaws: Bourgeois Environmentalism and the Battle for Delhi’s Streets” in Amita Baviskar and Raka Ray (ed.), Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, New Delhi: Routledge, 391-418.

Best Regards,

Arthur Cessou (EHESS, CEIAS et CSSH (New Delhi, Inde) :
Karine Hochart (Université de Tours et de Chennai (Inde), UMR CITERES) :
Mauve Létang (Université Paris – Sorbonne, UMR ENeC) :
Sugandha Singh (Institut TATA de Sciences Sociales, Mumbai, Inde) :