Irene Promodh

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10715

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Promodh, Irene (Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of) "Tangles of Gold: Labor, Caste, and Value between the Christian Margins of Kerala and the Arabian Gulf"

This project examines migrant remittances of gold as a metonymic lens into mobility and relationality across scales. As an affective substance that, when remitted, ties people to their kin in transregional webs of obligation, gold is entangled intimately with local and global regimes of value. In one of the densest labor migration corridors in the world, between rural Kerala in south India and the petrostates of the Arabian Gulf, gold travels primarily via the labor of Christian minorities from Kerala who, since the oil boom of the 1960s, found work in the megacities of the Gulf in their millions. Their remittances from the Gulf furthered the modernization projects of Kerala at the turn of the century, turning gold into a coveted symbol of the state’s modernity and neoliberal prosperity. However, Kerala Christians at the forefront of these gold circulations contend with the present-day value of gold from the Gulf against centuries of caste and communal dispute over its adornment and symbolic import. Using an array of methods – in-depth interviews, participant-observation, archival research, and data and media analysis – I trace how gold circulates via Christian-minority migrants and their worlds of religious and caste contention flung across the Arabian Sea.