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Raj, Jayaseelan and Axelby, Richard (2019) 'From labour contractors to worker-agents: Transformations in the recruitment of migrant labourers in India.' Contributions to Indian Sociology, 53 (2). pp. 272-298.

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This article examines the circumstances in which the tasks performed by professional labour contractors may be passed on to worker-agents. It does so by critically engaging with the experience of migrant workers from the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand as they travel to work in the Peermade tea belt in the South Indian state of Kerala. Specifically, we identify shifts in economic and political contexts that have permitted these functions to pass from labour contractors to workers-agents and from a Sardari (top-down) to a Ristedari (kinship based) system. Outlining the functions of the labour contractor—as bridge, broker and buffer—the article details the complex processes and the series of negotiations that occur during the transition from labour contractor to worker-agent-led recruitment and the implications of this shift for labour relations in the production setting. We conclude by calling for further consideration of the ‘worker-agent’ as a key emerging figure in understanding the contemporary transformations in the reproduction of footloose migrant labour, which may have larger ramifications for other contexts in South Asia and beyond.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: migrant labour, labour contractor, worker-agent, plantation, India
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
ISSN: 00699667
Copyright Statement: This is the version of the article accepted for publication in Contributions to Indian Sociology published by SAGE
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2019 10:47
Funders: European Union

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