The Labor of Social Change: Seasonal Labor Migration and Social Change in Rural Western India
This work was supported by the Social Science Research Council (Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, 2014) and the University of Illinois Women and Gender in Global Perspectives program (Rita and Arnold Goodman Fellowship, 2015-16 and Due and Ferber International Research Award, 2015), Graduate College (Dissertation Travel Award, Fall 2015), and the Department of Geography and GIS (Foster Graduate Fellowship, Fall 2015; Summer Research Grant, 2015; and Joseph and Marion Russell Fellowship, Fall 2015)
Migrant agricultural laborers -- India -- Maharashtra, Agriculture -- India -- Social aspects, Food supply, Maharashtra (India) --Social conditions
In this paper, I examine the relation between seasonal labor migration in rural western India and social change in the home communities of the migrants. The phenomenon of seasonal migration has been studied from the lens of remittance flows and net-loss-and-gain-of- labor between regions. However, there remains a paucity of studies that examine how marginalized people employ their personal experiences, ideas, and sensibilities in the process of circulating between their home and destinations to contest their historic, unequal power relations in their home villages. This research is an effort to fill that gap.
Based on research conducted in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra in rural western India during summer 2014 and summer through fall 2015 and drawing on Gramscian concepts of counter-hegemony, I claim that in rural Maharashtra, seasonal labor migration has caused ripples in the social lives of the villages, impacting landowning farmers, landless laborers, and relations of production. These changes are visible in quotidian politics: in new farmer and laborer subjectivities, challenges posed to the common sense of social conduct, and migrant politics of resistance visible in the migrants' “war of position” against landowning farmers. While migration and development policy, both in India and globally, has focused on the integration of internal migrants in their destinations, the quotidian political conflicts in the home communities of internal, circular migrants continue to remain largely unexamined. By studying migration as a social process, this paper exhorts policy analysts to situate “home” as an appropriate avenue to understand how communities transform through migration.
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Rai, P. (2018). The labor of social change: Seasonal labor migration and social change in rural western India. Geoforum, 92, 171-180.