South Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer: Yumna Siddiqi, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Chair: Tayyab Mahmud, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Discussant: Anne D. Waters, Mount Holyoke College
The metaphorics of "globalization" obscures its politics. Said to operate at a supra-local level, globalization is conceived in terms of the "flows" of capital, goods and people, the "dispersal" and "fragmentation" of subjectivity, and the "hybridity" of culture. The emancipatory moment implicit in such rhetoric rests on a putative unboundedness of experience. The papers on this panel variously "place" globalization in specific contexts, with the aim of evaluating its concrete political effects.
Bhattacharjees and Shankars joint paper presents research conducted in India during the first half of 1997 on the discourse and experience of liberalization. Juxtaposing readings of mainstream accounts of liberalization with interviews with labor activitists and workers, Bhattacharjee and Shankar elucidate the double-speak involved in describing Indias induction into a global economy as an amelioration of the economic condition of workers on the ground. Siddiqis paper discusses the experience of migrant South Asian domestic workers in a global frame, arguing that the systemic economic inequalities that inhere in globalization cleave migrant identities and complicate feminist politics. Parkers paper examines citizenship in relation to globalization. He argues that contrary to the current rhetoric of the evisceration of the category of citizenship with the advance of globalization, from a South Asian perspective, "global" citizenship appears predicated upon practices of spatial/economic location that are highly differentiated.
The panel moves from the situation on the ground as India aggressively enters and is interpolated into a global economy, to the "in-between" experience of South Asian workers who as female employees in the home are marginal to begin with and are more so as migrants, to a theoretical account of immigrants vis-à-vis citizenship in a global world. It places the locally specific phenomena of labor in a newly liberalized economy, migrant domestic work, and citizenship in a global frame; equally important, it anchors tendentiously free-wheeling discussions of "globalization" to concrete contexts.
S. Shankar, Rutgers University; Anannya Bhattacharjee, Independent Scholar
Liberalization in India has been mostly talked of as a process of globalizationa process of connecting the national space of the Indian economy to the global space of a world-capitalist system. Even as the mainstream Indian and Western media have come out in euphoric support of this process, textile mills are being closed in a de-industrializing Bombay, and there have been numerous suicide and starvation deaths of weavers resulting from loss of jobs traceable to liberalization.
We take one typical narrative of globalization which appeared in Newsweek and analyze it by contrasting it to the perspectives advanced in interviews we conducted over a number of months with individuals and members of community-based organizations in India. Some examples of organizations and affected people we have talked to are: Kashtakari Sanghatana (which organizes agricultural laborers in villages outside Bombay) and Tamil Nadu State Construction Workers Union. Examples of individuals are: P. Sainath (award winning author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought) and Nandita Shah and Nandita Gandhi (feminist intellectuals who have researched the effects of liberalization on women workers).
By highlighting the above contrast, we demonstrate the typical discursive conventions employed in mainstream media coverage of liberalization.
Yumna Siddiqi, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
It is clear from the experiences of the domestic workers who attend meetings in New York City of the Domestic Workers Committee, recently reconstituted as Workers Aawaz, that it is not enough to analyze their circumstances simply as one aspect of the economic and cultural experience of immigrants. The domestic labor of migrant South Asian women can only be fully understood in relation to a global economy that is developed unevenly in a sustained way. As a consequence of this systemic inequality, migrant women are economically positioned in starkly contrary circumstances. Attracted by the promise of dollar wages abroad, migrant domestic workers find themselves placed in low-wage, low-status, unprotected and unregulated positions of work, often for South Asian professionals who enjoy a "model minority" status supported by the invisible labor of their female compatriots. This contradiction has become unbridgeable in the politics of an avowedly feminist, progressive organization such as Sakhi for South Asian Women, which, formed to combat domestic violence, has violently ejected the Domestic Workers Committee from its membership. Taking as its point of departure this contradiction, my paper maps the interlocking relation between the domains of labor, law and domesticity that position migrant South Asian domestic workers in the interstices of civil society and of state regulation, giving their experience of transnationality a very different character from that of migrant professionals, and shaping how they choose to translate experience into collective action.
Kunal M. Parker, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
Within contemporary Western academic discourse, "globalization" is often blamed for producing a decline in citizenship; the erosion of spatial boundaries, combined with a universalization of human rights, allegedly producing an impoverished sense of "belonging." This paper examines the state of U.S. immigration and nationality law to argue that the decline of citizenship is exaggerated, even in the moment of globalization. Contrary to the views of scholars who have pronounced the death of citizenship, the rights-bearing subject of legal discourse cannot be divorced from the various discriminatory practices, reflected in legal discourse, that determine that subjects emergence. The rhetoric of belongingquite as much as the rhetoric of the decline of belonging"float" above these practices. Acutely aware of these discriminatory practices, immigrants recognize the importance of citizenship in shielding them from denials of access to work, opportunities, benefits and so on. Recent initiatives with U.S. immigration law, which reveal an obsession with monitoring space, have reinvested citizenship with meaning.
If citizenship is not in fact in decline, how should it be conceived under conditions of globalization? Although certain practices of work, communication and movement have undoubtedly become more "global," citizenship remains a vital locus for determining access to the "global." For denizens of Third World countries, although "globalization" is held out as a universal phenomenon, the spaces in which this phenomenon is actualized are generally inaccessible. Even as space is becoming unbound (and senses of spatial belonging diminish), the "right" citizenship becomes an important determinant of access to this unbound, universal space. Even as "global" citizenship loses its investment in national space in the sense of belonging, participation and so on, national space is valorized as the background from which the global subject emerges.