Shruti Ganeshakrishnan Iyer

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Oxford, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10423

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Iyer, Shruti (Oxford, U. of) "Silicosis and the State: Valuing Life and Labour in Contemporary India"

This dissertation explores the moral economy of recompense for ill-health caused by hazardous working conditions. This project does this through an ethnographic case study of a government welfare scheme for people diagnosed with silicosis, an occupational lung disease, in the State of Rajasthan in India. I focus on the moral economy of the scheme, drawing attention to the moral discourses, practices, and ethical claims that frame government intervention in occupational health. How do people understand financial ‘compensation’ for ill-health? How does it fit into their sense of justice, responsibility, and their everyday moral reasonings about duties and obligations? Through eighteen months of ethnographic data collection, including participant observation in a Workers’ Rights Centre and a community health clinic, this project investigates the ethical visions and moral values that give monetary relief and recompense meaning. Focusing on interactions between bureaucrats, doctors, trade unionists, NGO workers, and silicosis-affected communities, this ethnography will contribute to anthropological understandings and theorizations of state relief practices, medical expertise, workplace relations, as well as processes of moral and legal claim-making. This advances our understanding of how values inform the worth of life and labour, and the contestations surrounding state policy.