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Gendered economies of extraction: seeking permanence amidst the rubble of Bengaluru’s construction industry

Bowers, Rebecca (2019) Gendered economies of extraction: seeking permanence amidst the rubble of Bengaluru’s construction industry. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka state in southern India, has undergone rapid transformation in recent decades, from ‘Pensioner’s paradise’ to ‘The city of the future’. At present, its kinetic landscape reflects the competing aspirations of an array of global investors, entrepreneurs, local politicians and would-be real estate moguls. But what of those who lay the foundations for this possibility? By focusing on the lives and labour of women and their families working in construction, this thesis sheds light on a frequently overlooked demographic of co-contributors to Bengaluru’s growth. Attending to the precarity experienced by interlocutors, this thesis situates women’s endeavours to establish familial forms of permanence through an ethic of pragmatism. Illustrating how such projects are strived towards, it examines the cultivation of pragmatism to navigate various aspects of the city, and beyond. By acknowledging the resources long-term resident communities may acquire in the city, this thesis also examines the contrasting liminality experienced by migrant workers, who have scant access to these. In doing so, it attends to the ways in which urban precarity is shaped and harnessed by real estate developers seeking to maximise profit and devolve the financial risks of industry speculation. Illuminating how hegemonic masculinity informs these actions and subsequently, who is able to speculate, this thesis attends to the gendered relations that belie economies of extraction. Making visible employer strategies to maintain flexible labour, it also explores workers’ efforts to counter precarity via the state and their own forms of collective organisation. Utilising ethnographic data collected during fieldwork between October 2014-May 2016 and August 2016-February 2017, this thesis provides a nuanced perspective of the gendered relations of production and social reproduction; and the political life that unfolds between them. Attending to the intersectionality of precarious labour conditions, it contributes to the overlapping fields of the anthropology of work, gender, and economics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Rebecca Bowers
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Bear, Laura and Banerjee, Mukulika

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