A culture of informality?

Fragmented solidarities among construction workers in Nepal

in Focaal
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  • 1 University of Copenhagen, Denmark hirslund@hum.ku.dk

Despite a history of labor militancy in past decades, Nepal’s large construction sector remains unorganized and lacks social protection, prompted by high levels of informality. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among construction laborers in Kathmandu, this article argues that labor subsumption to capital in the construction industry takes place through a systemization of expertise through which access to work is negotiated. I show how this “culture of informality” shapes labor relations and creates a semblance of transparency and justice in otherwise chaotic and fiercely competitive labor communities. Drawing on concepts from political and urban anthropology to probe how informality indexes forms of power, I argue that authority and status become distributed through processes of distinction and thereby extend and deepen inequalities permeating contemporary industrial relations.

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

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