Indian Muslims in a Global City: Socio-Political Effects on Economic Preferences in Contemporary Mumbai

by Sumeet Mhaskar

Working Papers WP 13-04
January 2013
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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This paper examines the effects of socio-political processes on economic preferences in Mumbai by focussing on the case of Muslim ex-millworkers. The argument of this paper is that the feeling of karahiyat [Urdu: nausea, disgust, hate, etc.] combined with suspicion, in terms of terrorism and mafia, creates barriers for Muslims’ employment and self-employment opportunities. The argument is substantiated by using the survey data of 924 ex-millworkers and in-depth interviews with 80 ex-millworkers collected during 2008-09 and 2010-11. The findings presented in this paper suggest that economic liberalisation in India is not contributing to the dissolution of social institutions such as caste, religion, and gender. This paper concludes that Muslims in contemporary Mumbai face a combination of unfavourable exclusion and unfavourable inclusion.

Keywords: Mumbai, Muslims, occupations, exclusion, post-industrial economy

Sumeet Mhaskar is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for South Asia, Stanford University. Prior to Stanford, he was based at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany. Sumeet has obtained his doctorate from the Department of Sociology, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford. His doctoral thesis explored Mumbai’s ex-millworkers’ responses to their job loss as a result of textile mill closures during the last decade and a half. Sumeet’s research interests include labour studies, political economy, economic sociology, discrimination and exclusion at workplaces, Indian politics, urban transformation and social movements.