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Reference Number ES/V007173/1
Title Carbon Economies: Precarious Labour, Local Politics, and Inequality in the Eastern Indian Coal Belt
Status Started
Energy Categories FOSSIL FUELS: OIL, GAS and COAL (Coal, Coal production, preparation and transport) 50.000%;
OTHER CROSS-CUTTING TECHNOLOGIES or RESEARCH (Environmental, social and economic impacts) 50.000%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100.000%
Science and Technology Fields SOCIAL SCIENCES (Sociology) 50.000%;
SOCIAL SCIENCES (Development Studies) 50.000%;
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Other sociological economical and environmental impact of energy) 100.000%
Principal Investigator Dr I Noy
No email address given
Development Studies

Award Type Standard
Funding Source ESRC
Start Date 01 October 2020
End Date 30 September 2021
Duration 12 months
Total Grant Value £102,872
Industrial Sectors
Programme Skills & Methods - Fellowships
Investigators Principal Investigator Dr I Noy , Development Studies, (100.000%)
Web Site
Objectives My doctoral research, titled Extracting a Living: Labour, Inequality, and Politics in a Tribal Coal Mining Village in India, examines the varied effects of coal mining operations - and, in particular, mining-induced acquisition of rural land - on lives and livelihoods in an indigenous community in Jharkhand, eastern India. It questions prevalent assumptions about the impact of, and local responses to, extractive projects and land dispossession, and contributes to scholarship on precarious labour, inequality, and everyday politics. I have three objectives for this fellowship.(1) To consolidate my research and strengthen my academic career prospects by establishing a publication track record. This will be done through the production of:- Three academic articles, based on my doctoral research, for submission to already-identified, appropriate peer-reviewed journals. One of these articles has already been drafted and presented as a seminar paper, and I have outlined the other two.- A book proposal for a monograph based on my doctoral thesis, for submission to three UK publishers that bridge academic and non-academic readerships (Verso, Pluto, and Bloomsbury).(2) To disseminate and extend the reach of my research both within and beyond academia:- Within academia, by presenting on different aspects of my research at two already-identified international academic conferences.- Beyond academia, by producing at least two shorter, generalist pieces on the findings of my research for public-facing outlets such as The Guardian's global development site. These pieces will contribute insights from my research to pressing public debates on energy resources, inequality, and ecological degradation.(3) To develop my research networks and lay the groundwork for future collaborations, through organising a two-day interdisciplinary workshop at the SOAS on extractive industrialism, dispossession, and their politics. The workshop will bring together, and allow me to directly engage with, not only scholars but also activists and civil society practitioners working on these topics.SOAS's Department of Development Studies is an ideal host institution for achieving these objectives. My research straddles the disciplines of anthropology and development studies; having so far been based in an anthropology department (at LSE), engaging with development scholars will bring new conceptual perspectives into my analysis. The department's focus and critical research on poverty, inequality, agrarian relations, and environmental change - including in-depth expert knowledge on South Asia - are closely aligned with the themes of my research. The department's research clusters on 'Agrarian Change and Development', 'Labour, Movements and Development', and 'Political Ecology of Environment and Development', with their emphasis on empirically-grounded theoretical interventions, are especially relevant to my research. The department's commitmentto engaged research that contributes to policy debates on some of today's key economic and political challenges makes it an advantageous setting for carrying the impact of my research beyond academia.Dr Jens Lerche's research specialisms in agrarian change and labour relations, with a focus on India, make him well-placed to serve as my mentor. He will provide guidance on my research and publishing strategies, and intellectual collaboration on the interdisciplinary workshop and development of new research. I will, moreover, benefit from the research environment at SOAS, where my project will stimulate interaction between development and other interdisciplinary scholars working on themes of labour and livelihoods (Alessandra Mezzadri and Crist bal Kay, Development Studies; Elizabeth Hull, Anthropology); natural resources, carbon economies, and climate change (Edward Simpson and Richard Axelby, Anthropology); and the anthropology of development in India (David Mosse, Anthropology).
Abstract In the mineral-bearing tracts of eastern India, coal mining activities have for decades been concentrated in areas inhabited by indigenous communities, and brought about dispossession, displacement, and the erosion of land- and forest-based ways of life. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in a mining-affected indigenous village, my doctoral research examines the variegated ways in which mining industrialisation has affected different groups of villagers - from illegal coal peddlers to colliery employees - and its wider impact on the community as a whole. By providing an insight into the lives, livelihoods, and perspectives of people engulfed by mining operations, the research challenges common assumptions on the effects of, and responses to, extractive industrialism and dispossession, and contributes to theoretical engagements with labour, inequality, and politics.First, at variance with prominent critical theories of dispossession, the thesis shows how rather than simply the destruction of rural communities, dispossession can generate socioeconomic differentiation within them, creating new and deeper internal inequalities. By exploring these inequalities in relation to the different types of work, formal and informal, that have emerged locally as a result of mining, the research contributes to the literature on work and precarity. It illustrates how different forms of informal labour can carry different degrees of precarity and meanings for labourers - in terms of stability, autonomy, work rhythms, and gender dynamics - that inflect their present and longer-term livelihood strategies.Second, contrary to the prevalent narrative of resistance to mining and dispossession by rural - and especially indigenous - communities, the research shows how such processes can produce not protest but participation in the economy of carbon extraction. By examining local forms of co-option and clientelism in connection with mining operations, the research contributes to our understanding of the politics of dispossession and extractive industrialism. It illuminates how political leaders and potential activists can become brokers between extractive projects and villagers, and how this can lead to shifts in everyday sociopolitical relations that act to curb rather than foster possibilities of collective action.These insights are also crucial for debates on energy resources and ecological change. By casting light on the range of local coal-related forms of labour, and the intricacies of local politics around mining and dispossession, the research illustrates how rural indigenous livelihoods can become almost exclusively dependent on fossil fuel extraction, and their very survival bound up with precarious, environmentally-detrimental carbon-based economies. Different chapters of the thesis form the basis for the three journal articles I will produce during the fellowship, which make specific respective theoretical contributions: to our understanding of the everyday politics of extractive industrialisation and dispossession; of precarious, informal labour; and of the temporality of inequality and precarity. The thesis as a whole forms the basis for the book proposal I will pitch to selected publishers. In addition to the impact of the articles and - at a later stage - the monograph, the project includes several other impact-oriented activities. First, presentations in selected academic conferences, which will disseminate the research within academia. Second, the workshop I will co-organise with my mentor at SOAS, which will include both scholars and activist and civil society organisations, and generate broad conversations on issues around extractive industrialism, dispossession, and politics. And third, publications in public-facing forums that will engage general audiences by tapping into timely public debates on some of the most pivotal challenges of our time: growing inequalities, carbon and energy futures, and environmental change
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 08/02/21