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Working at the margins? Muslim middle class professionals in India and the limits of 'labour agency'

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Al JamesORCiD, Dr Fiona McConnell



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


This paper explores the work-lives of middle class Muslim professionals in India’s new service economy. While these workers have successfully negotiated labour market entry into the ‘core’ growth sectors of India’s globalising economy, they are simultaneously subject to different forms of social, cultural and political marginalization. Strikingly, they also remain at the margins of both economic geography and development geography scholarship. The paper extends a growing development geography/economic geography ‘intellectual trading zone’ (Barnes and Sheppard 2010) and enhances understandings of the complex relationships between labour agency, marginality and social inclusion. The paper draws on new survey data to document patterns of labour agency amongst Muslim professionals in New Delhi. This is augmented by interviews with Muslim professionals to show how different forms of marginality are experienced in their everyday work-lives and the strategies and agencies articulated towards (re)working those marginalities. The paper concludes by reflecting on the broader implications of these findings in relation to socially inclusive growth, the middle-class transformation of India’s Muslims and wider understandings of marginality and worker agency.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Williams P, James A, McConnell F, Vira B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A

Year: 2017

Volume: 49

Issue: 6

Pages: 1266-1285

Print publication date: 01/06/2017

Online publication date: 10/02/2017

Acceptance date: 12/01/2017

Date deposited: 13/01/2017

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/0308518X17692324

Notes: Awarded Ashby Prize 2018


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