ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cotton Mills in Tamil Nadu, 1914–51

Gender, Class and Community in Mobilisation of Labour

Although women did not constitute a large part of the industrial labour force in the 20th century, the integration of women workers into cotton mills in Tamil Nadu is surveyed in this paper to trace the construction of notions of gender, community, and class among millworkers. The various interconnections and interfaces among the workers’ several group identities are examined. When discussing caste, it is situated in the varying orders of meaning that it generated for the workers and management; the social implications emerging from such codification are examined, as is the state’s social control over workers.

Not many studies on the working class in colonial India focus on the gendered aspects of the workplace. It is true that women did not have a sizeable presence in India’s industrial workforce during the 20th century. However, in the Madras region of colonial South India, in the first half of the 20th century, the share of women in the cotton mill workforce rose to a quarter of the total.1 This paper surveys the process of integrating women into industrial work and culture in Madras, Madurai, and Coimbatore.

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Updated On : 22nd Mar, 2021

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