From Punjab to Pontinia: Agricultural Labor Migration and Territorial Development

Authors: Ayan Meer*, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Topics: Migration, Europe, Political Geography
Keywords: migration, labor, political geography, financialization, agriculture, urban development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Council Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The region South of Rome, Italy, known as the Pontine Marshes has witnessed in the last decade a rise in migration from the North of Punjab, India. Developed by the fascist regime in the early 1930s, the fertile lands of the Pontine Marshes rely on the daily wage labor of these male and female migrants, who are exploited in dramatic conditions, due to their indebtedness to brokers in India who set up the migration opportunity, and their reliance on middle men in Italy who organise the workforce for Italian landowners. Why has this migration trend emerged and how does it relate to rural and urban development in India and Southern Europe? Drawing theoretical engagement in the fields of political geography and urban studies, and from ethnographic fieldwork with migrant workers in both Punjab and the Pontine Marshes, I argue that the increased financialization of land in India has produced a strong incentive for migration to Europe. In addition, I attempt to understand how this exploited migrant workforce allows the uneven development of a peculiar economy in the Pontine Marshes, both agrarian and industrial, and also both local and global.

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