Date: 15 March 2023
Time: 1000 – 1100 hrs.
Venue: Conference Room No.1
Title: Informality, Marginality and Agency: A study of Sanitation work and workers in Alleppey town, India
Guide: Prof. N C Narayanan
Co-Guide : Prof. Pankaj Sekhsaria
RPC Members: Prof. Pennan Chinnasamy, Prof. Himanshu Burte
A critical part of addressing marginality within the sanitation chain requires addressing the concerns of sanitation workers who play a major role in maintaining sanitation systems, but they remain invisible and unrecognised labour force working in unsafe environments that endanger their lives. Sanitation workers typically belong to marginalized, low-income, class, caste backgrounds or religious minorities. Their marginal positions and agency are dependent on social, economic, political and technological factors. In the context of these larger concerns, my study proposes to explore how sanitation workers face marginality in varied forms and the ways in which they assert their agency. The study tries to engage with the literature on marginality, agency and informal work to understand the complex practice of sanitation work and how different sets of workers face differential impacts leading to the marginal positions. Also, the informality in sanitation work is widely seen and unrecorded, pointing to the regulative limits of state bureaucracy to provide basic services like sanitation.
Despite various risks and challenges, there is limited information about the challenges faced by informal sanitation workers and their concerns are often excluded from discussions around sanitation access and inclusion. In Sum, this research tries to understand the complexity associated with contemporary sanitation work – which is more of an informal, illegal and invisible work. The research is designed with the objective to theoretically locate the larger question of marginality and agency of sanitation workers at the intersection of caste, class, gender, and 'precarity' associated with the job. By Exploring the evolution of the sanitation work, workers and technologies, and the everyday struggles of sanitation workers through a qualitative inquiry in the small town of Alleppey in Kerala, the study seeks to understand the complexity around the working and living conditions of sanitation workers (who deals with both solid and liquid wastes). The primary data sources of the research include in-depth interviews, FGDs, participant observation, newspaper reports and government documents. The archival materials will also be analysed alongside to historically contextualize the research.