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Abstract

In his article "Modernizing the Colonial Labor Subject in India" Valerian DeSousa discusses how the colonial project in India sought to counter the labor movement's evolving anti-colonial consciousness through law, the primary signifier of British dominance. DeSousa argues that colonial labor law was an instrument of "governmentality," a way of deploying the authority of the state, both in India and in Africa where the law encoded meanings of property and subjectivity. In India, labor law was the means to "reconstruct" the "traditional" worker and to constitute a "modern" and "efficient" labor subject to fit into the new industrial vision taking shape. How was modernity translated in the Indian context? Paradoxically, while the industrial exhibition became the metaphor for modernity for the metropolitan center, colonial rule "undermodernized" Indian skilled workers and constructed them as "static" and unchanging. By looking at the discourses that contextualized labor law in the colonial era, DeSousa examines the restrictive techniques employed to limit the potential of the labor movement and participation in modernity. The "conferral" of modernity and the discourses that celebrated it were embedded in Orientalist frameworks that were unquestioned.

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