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 u
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