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Women, labour and the circulation of value in informal scrap economies

Authors: Cynthia Morinville*, University of Toronto
Topics: Economic Geography, Gender, Asia
Keywords: women, labour, value, e-waste, scrap economy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Why do we find women in such overwhelming numbers in the dismantling and segregation segments of scrap markets? Why is that labour seldom recognised and poorly compensated? Studies of the working lives of women have argued that a feminization of labour is often at play in undermining the full recognition of women’s labour (Wright, 2006). This paper follows the labour of women beyond traditionally recognised sites of labour such as the factory and into women’s homes and social lives to extend these conversations and investigate the multiple logics underwriting the invisibilisation of women’s work in Bholakpur, one of Hyderabad, India’s primary scrap recycling hub.

Bholakpur’s long histories of scrap recycling activities have shaped the neighbourhood in such a way that no clear boundaries exist between the scrap industry and residential areas. Following the circulation of scrap materials and labour across this porous boundary, I examine the circulation of value through intricate micro-level networks where labour intersects with other institutions such as marriage and credit and their governing logics. Taking the social and material lives of home-based dismantlers, scrap workers, and traders as a point of departure, the paper engages the narratives mobilized to makes sense of women’s work, who labours and who is allowed to labour and in what spaces to examine how the redemption of material through scrap work allows value to accrue in certain places while the same practices engender depreciation for other spaces and bodies.

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