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Provincializing Capital: The Work of an Agrarian Past in South Indian Industry

  • Sharad Chari (a1)

During the last two decades of the twentieth century, Tiruppur town in Tamilnadu state became India's centerpiece in the export of cotton knitted garments. Between 1986 and 1997, Tiruppur's export earnings skyrocketed from $25 million to $636 million, the number of garments exported increased more than nine-fold, and Tiruppur shifted from basic T-shirts to diversified multi-product exports of fashion garments. This industrial boom has been organized through networks of small firms integrated through intricate subcontracting arrangements controlled by local capital of the Gounder caste from modest agrarian and working-class origins. In effect the whole town works like a decentralized factory for the global economy, but with local capital of peasant-worker origins at the helm. What is more, these self-made men hinge their retrospective narratives of class mobility and industrial success on their propensity to ‘toil’: the word ulaippu is distinct from the conventional Tamil word for work. How did Gounder peasant-workers remake the dynamics of work through their toil, to make Tiruppur a powerhouse of global production?

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ChariSharad 2000 The Agrarian Origins of the Knitwear Industrial Cluster in Tirupur, India World Development 28 3 (Mar.) 579–99

GraeberDavid 2001 Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dream New York Palgrave

HartGillian 1986 Interlocking Transactions: Obstacles, Precursors or Instruments of Agrarian Capitalism? Journal of Development Economics 23 177 203

LemonAlaina 2000 Between Two Fires: Gypsy Performance and Romani Memory from Pushkin to Postsocialism Durham, N.C. Duke University Press

StolerAnn 1995 Prefacing Capitalism and Confrontation in 1995 Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra's Plantation Belt, 1870–1979 2d ed. Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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