HTC Forum: Namita Vijay Dharia The Labor of Architecture: the politics and materialities of Indian construction sites.


Who are the millions of workers behind the aggressive urban metamorphosis of India in the twenty-first century? How are lives of those who construct architecture and urban areas entangled with the materialities and spaces they work in? How can design and construction be more equitable processes? Namita Vijay Dharia presents a cross-class ethnography of architects, planners, contractors, foremen, workers, and developers in India’s National Capital Region (NCR). In her presentation Dharia, analyzes the dominant materialities and aesthetics on construction sites to demonstrate the ways in which they intertwine with laboring experience. Dharia locates herself on the construction site to observe the social processes that emerge through the formation of architecture and the inequities that frame design. She argues that an ephemeral atmospheric condition governs the workings of the construction industry: Ephemeral atmospheres (created through the transformation of materials and circulations of people) are not epiphenomenal to industrial operations; rather, they undergird labor politics and operating strategies in construction. The heat of steel, the constant clouds of dust, the electrical sparks on construction sites, are not mere metaphors but material environments that link to political subjectivity and laboring strife. Dharia makes her case by considering three key forms of life interlinked with the production of atmospheres in construction work: mazdoori, majboori, and jugaad, that is, the politics of labor, necessity, and precarity on construction sites. The presentation is based on fifteen months of ethnographic research in NCR.


Namita Vijay Dharia is Associate Professor of Political Economy in the

Department of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences at Rhode Island School of Design.

Her new book is: The Industrial Ephemeral Labor and Love in Indian Architecture and Construction.