After the Railways Are Built: Makrani Labor and Illegible Claims to Land and Belonging in Sindh

In: Journal of Sindhi Studies
Mishal Khan University of California Hastings College of the Law San Francisco, CA United States

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This article focuses on an incident involving a series of evictions experienced by a group of Makrani laborers who made their living by earning daily wages at the Hyderabad railway station in early twentieth century Sindh. In this piece I critically analyze two imperial projects: first, the construction of the Indian railways and second, the promotion of “free” wage labor by the colonial regime in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery. By critically interrogating the promises of both “free labor” and “technological progress” this article argues that survival in the Sindhi countryside depended on a group’s ability to assert legible claims to both belonging and to land. Through an in-depth examination of the conflicting land claims, bureaucratic exchanges, and discourses around wage work that these evictions provoked, this paper reflects on the enduring entanglements of race, labor, technology, and empire in this region of British India.

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