Ramsha Usman

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Barbara, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10543

Approve Date

April 6, 2023

Project Title

Usman, Ramsha (California, Santa Barbara, U. of) "The Labor of Being “Able”: Injury and Care in Pakistan’s Industrial Zones"

This project examines how the categories of ability and disability are being reframed in Pakistan’s Special Economic Zones through an ethnographic study of workers in a textile factory and care infrastructures like the welfare system. While workers are regularly injured, with short- and long-term consequences for bodily ability, not all workers are categorized as ‘disabled.’ The categorization of ability is based on managerial discourse that frames injuries as ‘part of the job’ and fitness tests and certifications through the welfare system. Since welfare depends on industries to provide disability compensation to workers, work and care are further entangled. In tracing how workers’ injuries are dismissed, diminished, or acknowledged, this project highlights how workers understand their own and others’ bodily ability, risk, and care as a means of determining ability. These nodes of occupational health shape various possibilities for embodied and social life in industries. Through a multi-sited ethnography of how workers’ ‘capacity for work’ is shaped, the research shows how workers are caught in a changing set of tensions between industry, foreign investment, and public and private care structures, in which ideas of ability are being rethought.