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Extracting a living: labour, inequality, and politics in a tribal coal mining village in India

Noy, Itay (2019) Extracting a living: labour, inequality, and politics in a tribal coal mining village in India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004043


In the mineral-bearing tracts of Jharkhand, eastern India, coal mining operations have for decades been concentrated in areas inhabited by adivasi, or tribal, populations, and brought about dispossession, displacement, and the erosion of land- and forest-based ways of life. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in a miningaffected adivasi village, this thesis examines the variegated ways in which mining industrialisation has affected different groups of villagers – from informal coal peddlers to colliery employees – and its impact on the community as a whole. By providing an insight into their lives, livelihoods, and perspectives, the thesis challenges common understandings of the effects of mining and dispossession, and contributes to related debates on labour and politics. First, by contrast with prominent critical theories of dispossession, the thesis shows how rather than simply the destruction of rural communities, dispossession can lead primarily to socioeconomic differentiation within them, creating new and enhanced internal inequalities. By exploring these inequalities in relation to the different types of work, formal and informal, that have emerged locally as a result of mining, the thesis contributes to the literature on labour and precarity. It illustrates how different forms of informal labour can carry different degrees of precarity and meanings for labourers – in terms of stability, autonomy, work rhythms, and gender dynamics – that inflect their present and longer-term livelihood strategies. Second, contrary to the prevalent narrative of resistance to mining and dispossession by rural – and especially indigenous – communities, the thesis shows how such processes can produce not protest but acquiescence. By examining local forms of cooption and clientelism in relation to mining operations, the thesis contributes to debates on the politics of dispossession and (non-)resistance. It illuminates how political leaders and potential activists can become brokers between dispossessing projects and villagers, and how this can lead to shifts in everyday sociopolitical relations that act to curb rather than facilitate possibilities of collective action.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Itay Noy
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Shah, Alpa and Bear, Laura

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