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Northeast Migrants in Delhi

Northeast Migrants in Delhi: Race, Refuge and Retail

Duncan McDuie-Ra
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Northeast Migrants in Delhi
    Book Description:

    Receives accolades by the ICAS 8 Committee 2013 Northeast Migrants in Delhi: Race, Refuge and Retail is an ethnographic study of migrants from India's north-east border region living and working in Delhi, the nation's capital. Northeast India borders China, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. Despite burgeoning interest in the region, little attention is given to the thousands of migrants leaving the region for Indian cities for refuge, work, and study. The stories of Northeast migrants reveal an everyday Northeast India rarely captured elsewhere and offer an alternative view of contemporary India. Northeast migrants covet the employment opportunities created by India's embrace of globalization; shopping malls, restaurants, and call centres. Yet Northeast migrants also experience high levels of racism, harassment, and violence. Far from simply victims of the city, Northeast migrants have created their own 'map' of Delhi, enabling a sense of belonging, albeit an uneasy one. Interdisciplinary in nature, this book will appeal to scholars of anthropology, urban studies, geography, migration, and Asian Studies. Most accessible and captivating work for the non-specialist reader Accolade by the ICAS 8 Reading Committee. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1623-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. List of Maps and Images
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-11)
    Duncan McDuie-Ra
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 13-34)

    On a January evening in Humayanpur, a neighbourhood in south Delhi, three young men from Nagaland in baggy jeans, coloured sneakers and spiky hair – one with dyed highlights – inspect vegetables from a mobile vendor in the narrow alleyway outside the entrance to their stairwell. From a window five floors up, another Naga calls out for them to hurry up because he has already started cooking. The vegetable vendor begins negotiations in English, touting the quality of his eggplants. One of the Nagas starts speaking to the vendor in Hindi, telling him not to bother trying to overcharge them. They live...

  6. 2 Leaving the Northeast
    (pp. 35-60)

    Northeast India is on the far eastern frontier of India. It is the ultimate borderland, barely connected to the rest of India and sharing international boundaries with five other nation-states. The frontier is located in the Indian national imaginary as distant, violent, and backward. Its people, especially in the hill areas, are racially distinct from the Indian mainstream, even when accounting for India’s diversity. Different tribal and ethnic groups in the Northeast have pursued secessionist and autonomy struggles in the six decades since Indian independence. The region’s government, development, and everyday life are militarised, and policy is orchestrated through national...

  7. 3 Coming to Delhi
    (pp. 61-86)

    In this chapter I discuss why Northeast migrants choose to come to Delhi. I focus on two main reasons. The first is the demand for labour from the Northeast. This needs to be understood in the context of Delhi’s transformation into a ‘global city’ through neo-liberal capitalism and the changing consumer and business landscape of the city. The drive to transform Delhi into a global city has been critiqued for reorganising, sanitising and enclosing urban spaces which has excluded the urban poor, labourers, and migrants. The end result is an uneven urban landscape with differentiated rights of access and participation....

  8. 4 Backward, Head-hunter, Sexy, Chinky
    (pp. 87-118)

    Racism defines the Northeast migrant experience of Delhi. For those unfamiliar with the Northeast region, this may seem a moot point. India is made up of diverse peoples from different ethnic lineages, so what makes migrants from the Northeast unique? Different groups in India experience prejudice and discrimination when they migrate and, for more marginal groups, even in their home locations, so why are migrants from the Northeast any different? The answer is race. Northeast migrants are seen as racially different from the Indian mainstream. India contains many communities earmarked as ‘others’ based on religion, caste, and even ethnicity, yet...

  9. 5 Provincial Men, Worldly Women
    (pp. 119-144)

    Racism gives the Northeasterner’s experience of Delhi a commonality that transcends gender. Beyond this commonality, gender differences in the experience of migration are stark. Leaving aside violence and sexual harassment for the moment, there is a strong sense that Northeast women flourish as migrants while men struggle. This divergence affects relations between men and women migrants. In this chapter I explore these relations and argue that migration from the frontier ruptures the sense of masculinity among Northeasterners. Faced with rapid change, Northeast men attempt to enact the gender norms of home. This leads to strain between men and women. As...

  10. 6 Place-making in the City
    (pp. 145-176)

    For Northeast migrants, life in Delhi can be extremely challenging. Discrimination, harassment, and violence combined with changing gender dynamics and difficult economic circumstances make life in Delhi tough. Nonetheless, Northeastern migrants get on with life in the city in ways that are mostly invisible to other communities. In this chapter I go beyond the notion of Northeast migrants as ‘victims of the city’ to focus on the ways they exercise agency to navigate, negotiate, and ultimately survive and even thrive in the city. The key question at the heart of this chapter is simple: how do Northeasterners get by in...

  11. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 177-186)

    As I was winding up fieldwork for this book, I met a friend from Nagaland studying for her PhD in Delhi. Julee and I sat on a wonky table in a university cafeteria while she quizzed me about this research. I laid out the story I wanted to tell piece by piece. I sketched the trajectory on the table by moving spilled grains of sugar to show the different parts of the story – a small pile here for what was happening in the Northeast, a small pile there for what was happening in Delhi. Our tea overflowed while the table...

  12. Short Biographical Note on the Author
    (pp. 187-188)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-200)
  14. Index
    (pp. 201-204)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-208)