Cultural capital and constrained agency in debt-migration for construction work in India

Deshingkar, Priya (2022) Cultural capital and constrained agency in debt-migration for construction work in India. Cultural Studies. pp. 1-21. ISSN 0950-2386

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Debt-migration is endemic in construction work in India, where exploitative social relations are an integral part of businesses’ capital accumulation model that can entrap migrants in forced labour and perpetual indebtedness. Drawing on concepts of cultural capital, ‘constrained agency’, and qualitative interviews with migrants and their wives, this study examines the embodied and material practices that migrants in Telangana use to challenge power hierarchies and embark on different life trajectories. The paper draws out the gendered differences in cultural capital and agential strategies that migrants use to place themselves and their families on an upwardly mobile path. Although still in debt, many migrants had succeeded in buying land, investing in farming, marrying their daughters, releasing themselves from moneylenders, and educating their children privately. A few had transitioned to working and living more permanently in the city of Hyderabad. This research sheds new light on how constrained agency and the use of cultural capital intersects with gender, ethnicity, and caste. It also shows that while the situations of both those who continue to circulate and those who settle in the city remain precarious, small incremental changes can add up to a significant shift in social and economic circumstances.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2022 09:58
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2022 10:09

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