South Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer and Chair: Mustapha K. Pasha, American University
Discussant: Shelly Feldman, Cornell University
The language of "globalization" captures both particular manifestations of internationalizing cultural, economic, and social trends as well as divergent discursive practices in various disciplines about these trends. The papers on this panel afford the possibility of bridging theoretical and substantive understandings of globalization with reference to South Asia, combining a discussion of the varied meanings of "globalization" with concrete analyses of specific dimensions of economic and political change.
Focusing on two different academic trends as they particularly inform the analysis of South Asia, Itty Abraham proposes the need to historically contextualize discourses of globalization, reaffirming the importance of questions of race and power. South Asia provides an "ideal" site to examine the internationalization of academic trends and institutions. Jayati Lal critically examines the discourse on globalization in its neoliberal incarnation. Following an in-depth analysis of Indian garment workers, Lal explores the salience of the agency of labor under conditions of economic liberalization. Mustapha Kamal Pasha examines the paradoxical character of neoliberalism in South Asia, implicating the state in its own demotion especially in reference to social welfare, while strengthening the coercive accouterments of power.
Acknowledging its materiality and ideological power, all the three panelists see "globalization" as a relatively open-ended process with new challenges and opportunities for reshaping discursive and political strategies.
Itty Abraham, New York University
"Globalization" is often described as a recent, totalizing, one way phenomenon which will, in due course, homogenize the worlds cultures through the domination and celebration of "the west." We propose critically to examine this stereotyped impression in relation to recent and past moments in the (U.S.) academy, narratives of which complicate this story in different ways. The first academic trend we propose to examine is subaltern studies, a recent intellectual import from South Asia (among other places), and its reception(s), translation(s), and impact(s) in the fields of history, cultural studies, and representations of South Asia.
This paper will particularly focus on the appropriations of subaltern studies by other regional area studies. The other academic movement (so institutionalized it is now a sub-discipline) is comparative politics. Here we examine the period before World War II when this field, ostensibly always concerned about the world beyond the U.S., was coming to terms with the likely emergence of a host of new countries populated by non-white peoples, with little or no tradition of democracy, and who were clearly ambivalent about the rules of the international game. The issue here is to examine how evidence on political cultures and systems were incorporated (or not) into the understandings of the nature of politics in developed industrialized states. The internationalization (read in these two very different ways) of academic trends and institutions reaffirms the importance of race and power in shaping what we all too loosely call "globalization" today.
Jayati Lal, New York University
This paper critically examines the impact of neo-liberal policies on labor practices and workers rights in the Indian garment industry. Eschewing the local/global divide reproduced in debates on liberalization, and following the lead of critical geographers, I argue that "global" processes of productioncharacterized by simultaneous movements to domestic and export markets, shaped by local and global capital, and operating through organized and unorganized production unitschallenge a priori notions of the unilinear trajectory of globalization. Furthermore, the tendency to view globalization as the result of the internationalization of capital erases the role that domestic state initiatives and the agency of labor have in shaping these changes as well.
Underwriting the success of the garment industry in India was the flexible, fragmented, dispersed, and contract labor of women, men and women and children on the one hand, and the labor of highly regulated, feminized, assembly-line factory workers on the other hand. Drawing on observations of shopfloor level production changes, interviews with workers, managers, union organizers, and industry representatives, this paper charts the implications of Indian garment workers of neo-liberal free trade policies and their integration into the global economy. While the use of global sweatshop labor is an outcome of globalized production, these similarities in local conditions across national borders also present new opportunities for the transnational mobilization of labor.
Mustapha K. Pasha, American University
The discourse on globalization finds growing currency in recent analyses of South Asias political economy, underscoring the apparent ideological triumph of neo-liberalism but also its internationalization as a model of social engineering.
This paper examines the particular form in which neo-liberalism has entered the academic discourse in South Asia and its concrete manifestation as public policy. Specifically, we examine the paradoxical character of the discourse of globalization in which the state has become the principal author to "institute" neo-liberalism. Evidence suggests an exacerbation of social inequities attending the withdrawal of the state from the economy, necessitating a greater role for the state in the coercive realm. In turn, reliance on "non-economic" instruments to institute a neo-liberal régime is likely to undermine its legitimacy. The process of restructuring the state under neo-liberalism may carry the burden of strengthening the coercive parts of the state.
The second part of the paper explores the argument with specific reference to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, recognizing the differential character and impact of neo-liberalism on the state.