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Sex, bricks and mortar: constructing class in a central Indian steel town

Parry, Jonathan (2014) Sex, bricks and mortar: constructing class in a central Indian steel town. Modern Asian Studies, 48 (5). pp. 1242-1275. ISSN 0026-749X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0026749X1400002X


Based on a case study of informal sector construction labour in the central Indian steel town of Bhilai, this paper explores the intersection and the mutually constitutive relationship between social class on the one hand, and gender (and more specifically sexual) relations on the other. It is part of an attempt to document and analyse a process of class differentiation within the manual labour force between aspirant middle class organized sector workers and the unorganized sector ‘labour class’. With some help from the (pre-capitalist) ‘culture’ of their commonly work-shy men-folk, their class situation forces ‘labour class’ women onto construction sites where they are vulnerable to the sexual predation of supervisors, contractors and owners. That some acquiesce reinforces the widespread belief that ‘labour class’ women are sexually available, which in turn provides ‘proof’ to the labour aristocracy that they themselves are a different and better breed, superior in culture and morals. Class inequalities produce a particular configuration of gender relations; gender relations (and in particular sexual relations) produce a powerful ideological justification for class differentiation. This proposition has strong resonances with processes reported from other parts of the world; but in the Indian context and in its specific focus on sex it has not been clearly articulated and its significance for class formation has not been adequately appreciated.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2013 16:29
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:47
Funders: London School of Economics, Leverhulme Trust, Nuffield Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council

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