Gendering travel infrastructures: narratives from migrant road construction labour in the upper Himalayas

Authors: Anu Sabhlok*, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research
Topics: Gender, Migration, Development
Keywords: Road, labour, gender, migration, border, South Asia, India
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I narrate the human stories that accompany road construction in the border regions of northern India. The stories include narratives from migrant labourers’ travels in buses, trains and trucks to the upper Himalayas where they arrive every May to construct roads for the Border Roads Organization. Alongside, the material construction of the road, gendered and national subjectivities are constructed, challenged and reworked. Many things go into making infrastructure: materials like cement and tar, machines like road rollers and excavators, the sweat and blood of men and women and the numerous discourses that legitimize, enable and sometimes disrupt the process of construction. I trace these processes using a feminist geographic lens, paying attention to the dialectic between power and resistance that become central to the gendered subjectivities forming during and informing the border road construction. The paper is based on several years of ethnographic work conducted along the Indo-Tibetan border road in India.

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