Australia India Institute, Upstairs Seminar Room
147-149 Barry Street, Carlton VIC 3053
About the talk:
India’s gigantic informal, or the ‘unorganised’ sector as it is called, provides livelihoods for an innumerable people, including those toiling in small mines and quarries. Strangely, the NCEUS report (2007: 3) omitted the quarry workers. Such omissions add to the invisibility of the labouring figure of the rural migrant who ekes out a precarious living in one of the most difficult, dirty and risky jobs. What could be the reasons for this invisibility? The opposition to all kinds of mining by strong environmental lobby groups who are often based in metropolitan centres? The official tendency to conflate ‘informal’ with ‘illegal’ in India? State’s absolute ownership rights over mineral wealth and its bias towards the corporatised mineral enterprises?
The field – of small-scale mineral extraction by local entrepreneurs - has so far been a ‘theory wasteland’. If the macroeconomic theory of 'resource curse' or ‘resource conflicts’ failing hopelessly to realistically account for and explain the diverse and detailed assemblage of factors rooted in the local context, the broader questions posed above are also not adequately examined by political economists. In this seminar, Dr Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt will discuss her research - funded by the ARC - into this extractive wasteland of informal labour, and carried out in partnership with local-level civil society organisations that are helping the informal quarry labourers to improve their lives.
About the speaker:
Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt is an Academic Fellow of the Australia-India Institute, and an Associate Professor at the Australian National University. She is the academic leader in research on the precarious and tentative livelihoods in environmental resource dependent communities – whether in the transient chars (river islands) or in the mineral-rich tracts. Her extensive research on India (and later in Indonesia, Lao PDR and Mongolia) has made her a global authority on the gendered labour in the mines and quarries. Kuntala’s books include The Coal Nation: Histories, Politics and Ecologies of Coal in India (edited, Ashgate, 2014); Dancing with the River: People and Lives on the Chars in South Asia (co-authored, Yale University Press, 2013); Gendering the Field: Towards Sustainable Livelihoods for Mining Communities (edited, ANU Press, 2011); Women Miners in Developing Countries: Pit Women and Others (co-edited, Ashgate, 2006). More about Kuntala’s work can be gleaned from her staffpage https://crawford.anu.edu.au/people/academic/kuntala-lahiri-dutt.