Informal labour and livelihood diversification: dignity and agency among the Gonds in central india

Yadav, Smita (2016) Informal labour and livelihood diversification: dignity and agency among the Gonds in central india. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

In India, the efforts by the welfare state to aid the poor and improve their lives focus on formal, quantifiable, and bureaucratic policies in the form of housing, education, and employment. Yet, little is known about the less formal and experiential aspects of their lives and livelihoods. The Gonds, living in a Central Indian district of Panna in the state of Madhya Pradesh, are one group that has rarely partaken of the above welfare state policies designed to aid them, yet are surviving in the face of continuous threats to their traditional ways of forest-based livelihoods. The Gonds are an indigenous group of people, also known as adivasis, that are categorized as a scheduled tribes (STs). They lack basic literacy and possess no material assets like land. How then are Gonds creating their own forms of social welfare and economic security? Having worked on the Gonds’ lives in their labouring roles as majdoors (labourers), and having understood how they experienced hardships has lead me to reflect on how they aspire to live dignified lives and exercise agency within the informal economy.

A life-course perspective of Gonds' livelihood practices show that the informal economy works for Gonds because they exercise their agency in various ways, including by demanding desired wages and forms of work that are unavailable through formal welfare state schemes. The Gonds in fact experience dignity as they use the informal economy to stay debt-free, avoid starvation, and create formidable and reliable forms of care for their families. Thus, the thesis contributes to the literature on informal and precarious forms of work in India by showing, through the example of the Gonds, how even though the poor may feel vulnerable and disconnected from formal welfare schemes, they may still experience dignity through livelihood diversification and their exercise of agency and access to social capital. The thesis also presents empirical findings on labour contracts, the informal economy, and poverty.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN406 Cultural traits, customs, and institutions > GN448 Economic organisation. Economic anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN537 Ethnic groups and races > GN550 By region or country
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2016 10:44
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2017 09:11
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/61911

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