Shreyas Sreenath

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Emory U.

Grant number

Gr. 9253

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

Sreenath, Shreyas, Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'Untouchability in India's IT City: Urban Waste and the Materiality of Power in Bangalore, India,' supervised by Dr. Peter Little

SHREYAS SREENATH, then a graduate student at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, was awarded funding in April 2016 to aid research on ‘Untouchability in India’s IT City: Urban Waste and the Materiality of Power in Bangalore, India,’ supervised by Dr. Peter Little. This research explores how sanitation work mobilizes caste in contemporary Bangalore, a city whose Information and Bio-Technology firms serve as critical signposts for modern India. Through an examination of municipal waste, it seeks to understand how certain ‘expectations of modernity’ marshal historic caste relations to manage waste workers and obscure the problem of urban material overproduction. Via an ethnography of daily garbage hauls, street cleanups, petty recycling, and sewage maintenance, the project investigates how the city municipality provisions sanitation services through an intricate contract system. It argues that such a system engenders a regime of labor based on graded inequity that hinges upon trust and kin networks that not only traverse city and country, but also locate workers in active ‘states of exception.’ Moreover, the study examines how the municipal administration, by issuing private sanitation contracts to dominant caste communities, disavows two interrelated facets of solid waste management: 1) its dependence on the continuing degradation of Dalit labor and 2) the social and ecological costs of managing accumulating material debris. Lastly, the project analyzes the crisis prone nature of Bangalore’s solid waste system and discerns two countervailing tendencies: a) the urge to further monetize city waste and bring it under technological scrutiny; and b) the opening up of potent locations for the politicization of unencumbered growth and the persistence of caste in urban India.