Confronting Neoliberalism: Railway workers in Pakistan

Authors: Sher Khan*, University of North Texas, Waquar Ahmed, University of North Texas
Topics: Economic Geography, Social Geography, Third World
Keywords: Pakistan, neoliberalism, labor, railways, resistance, militant particularism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Cabinet Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This research looks to examine the decline of the railway workers movement in the context of a growing neoliberal-security state in Pakistan. In the past, the figure of railway workers, both as historical agents of social change and emblem of worker power, has been well-documented. Laced with nostalgia, the perspective works on histories dating back to the colonial era and focusses on its role in the anti-dictatorship and privatization movements in contemporary Pakistan. By examining the decline of the railway workers movement and the railways as a contested space, I intend to interrogate the limitations and possibilities of militant particularism in opposing neoliberalism. I will also look at politics of scale which was inherent in allowing hegemonic institutions and actors such as the IMF/World-Bank, military, or ruling-class to marginalize labor through a variety of processes, struggles and contestations. My fieldwork is based on unstructured interviews and archival research.

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