Categorical Oppression and Migrant Labour

Dr. Jayaseelan Raj: Categorical Oppression and Migrant Labour in India
Thursday February 18th, 2021 at 11am EST / 9pm IST via Zoom
Image: Peermade Tea Company/Jayaseelan Raj

What does ‘identity’ really mean for the migrant workforce beyond its function in production relations? How are forms of identity evoked within broader social relations in a migrant context? This talk explores these questions by looking at how the Tamil Dalit tea workers in the South Indian state of Kerala experience the stigmatization of their identity categories in the context of two significant events that occurred in the tea belt—an economic crisis and a conflict between two states over managing a dam. The way ‘migrant’ workers are categorized in their ‘host’ society is discussed here as fundamental to how they experience life both in and out of their workplaces. Extending Philippe Bourgois’s notion of conjugated oppression, Raj argues that when dominant groups stigmatize, evoke and employ certain aspects of the workers’ identities to their disadvantage, they are engaging in a phenomenon that he calls ‘categorical oppression’.

Jayaseelan Raj is an assistant professor at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, India, and Research Associate in the Egalitarianism project in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Bergen, where he received his PhD in Anthropology in 2014. Before joining CDS, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is a co-author of Ground Down by Growth (Pluto Press 2017 and Oxford University Press 2018).

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For further details, queries may be directed to Mythri Prasad-Aleyamma []

This event is cosponsored by the Center for Place Culture and Politics, the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Anthropology, Graduate Center, CUNY.