Embodying loss: Reflections on responses of workers to a factory closure in Tamil Nadu, India.

Authors: Madhumita Dutta*, The Ohio State University
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: Work, Workplaces, Labour, Closure, Loss
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In 2014 a factory closed down in a small industrial town in the outskirts of Chennai city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India. Over 5000 workers lost their jobs in matter of months. For the young workers, mostly women, who had joined the factory right after school, the closure meant more than just loss of job. A disruption that was created by the uncertainty of capital caused immense emotional response ranging from disbelief to anger, anxiety to bitterness that drove deep wedges into the ‘collective’ that had once stood united facing the state and the corporation. While the workers expressed a sense of anger, grief and loss to the factory closure, there was also a strong feeling that the company ‘owed’ them not to be treated this way. In the everyday practices and lived experiences of work, people form complex feelings towards workplace—identity, community, way of being, where work means ‘more than just a job’ or ‘wages’. However, labour’s ‘attachment’ to this space is not necessarily unproblematic and is experienced differently by different sets of workers as there are internal divisions within, often created by conditions of employment. While there are differences in the individual and collective actions of the workers in response to the factory closure, their responses to the closure are part of their everyday struggles. The paper reflects on the responses of the workers to a factory closure, trying to understand the meanings that workers draw from work and their attachments to workplace.

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