Digital pessimism: Can we break out of the negativity loop?

[By René König] A few years ago, when I was in Cape Town, South Africa, I quickly learned that Uber rides were the best way to navigate the city. They seemed relatively affordable, quick, comfortable, reliable, and safe. But I was a little conflicted about my choice, being well-aware of the long list of scandals […]

Savari: Sharing more than a ride

[By Sai Amulya Komarraju] Picture this: 9 women cramped into an auto (three-wheeler vehicle in India), taking a savari (‘ride’ in Hindi) to their workplace. Two women in saris on either side of the autowallah (driver), three on the seat at the rear actually meant for people to occupy, three on the little wooden slab […]

From unbanked to fully digital? A look behind Bangladesh’s online money transfers

[By Mohammad Sahid Ullah] COVID-19 has shown how some states, when motivated, can institute compassionate, sweeping and radical changes that remake society and its relations between workers and their organizations. However, integrating novel interventions into our everyday life demands that we think beyond the reactive impulse to address chronic problems. When technology is used as […]

Making opportunities inclusive for first-time digital users

[By Shrinath V] A couple of years ago, our house help came in early. She brought her daughter with her. The daughter was working at a nearby fashion store as a salesgirl after her graduation. The previous night, she had arrived home from work, distraught and weeping. The mother could not understand what she was […]

Women resellers in India’s gig economy: From access to confidence

[By Achyutha Sharma] Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of conversation around the gig economy that will impact how we view labour and the skilled workforce globally. In India, both the ‘gig economy’ and the gig workers have always existed and been pervasive, especially in the unorganised sectors. From […]

The street sweeper and her missing gloves

[By Usha Raman] The two women walk down my street at around 7 a.m. every morning, noticeable in the navy-blue knee-length coats they wear over their sarees, and the colourful bandannas that cover their heads. Bhagya (name changed to maintain anonymity) has large kaajal-rimmed eyes and she flashes a bright smile if she happens to […]

Platformizing women’s labour: Towards algorithms of empowerment

[By Pallavi Bansal] As the fifth-born daughter to a poverty-stricken couple in a small village of Karnataka, Rinky would consider herself fortunate on days she wouldn’t have to sleep on an empty stomach. Her parents pressurised her to take care of her younger brother while they struggled to make ends meet. As the siblings grew […]

Domestic work in Africa: Essential but precarious

[By Sharmi Surianarain & Julia Taylor] “I was working three days a week as a house cleaner. When the first person was infected with COVID-19 in Kenya, my boss told me not to report to work anymore. I have tried calling and they don’t answer my calls. l stay in the slums of Kawangware and […]

Landless labourers? Busting the myth of the migrant in the construction economy

[By Shweta Mahendra Chandrashekhar] I was born in Lonavala and brought up in Pune, both places located in the western region of India. Some of the vivid memories I have of my childhood include visits to numerous tunnel construction sites in India (Pune-Mumbai Expressway, Konk­­an Railway, Delhi Metro). My father’s infrastructure firm has been in […]

Making the law speak: Empowering workers through legal engagement

[By Siddharth de Souza] One of the most telling images of the past few months since the Government of India announced a lockdown has been the exodus of people on the move, from cities where they had made a home, through work, through children’s schools, and through social relationships, back to the home that they […]

Research that hurts – On the practice of care in fieldwork

[By Rawshon Akhter] Many ethical concerns connected to fieldwork are already a matter of established and routinized practice. For example, the privacy of respondents is protected by anonymizing their identity. In recent decades, we have further pushed these methodological norms. Ethnographers grapple with their legacy of an extractive culture, making a compelling case for ethical […]

Gendered data dilemmas and feminist design

[By Payal Arora] From media headlines such as “Why Do Women Make Such Good Leaders During COVID-19?” to the “Rise in Domestic Violence during Lockdown,” COVID-19 has acquired a deep gendered dimension, albeit a seemingly schizophrenic one. Women particularly in low-income communities are at once framed as leaders and victims – positioned at the forefront […]

Design for one: Centering the inadequacy of technology

[By Chinar Mehta] The first computer in my own home, years ago, was kept in the only room with air conditioning; my parents’ bedroom. The tangle of wires positioned my parents as the authority in the household – there was nothing we could do on the “personal” computer that could escape their notice. Few of […]

Should researchers be activists?

[By René König] For the longest time, scientists were idealized as objective observers of the world. Today, this ideal appears not only somewhat naïve, it is also increasingly regarded as not desirable. Instead, scientists are expected to be active members of society and vice versa; science is seen to be in need of becoming ‘democratized’, […]

Beauty gig work in the time of Covid-19

[By Sai Amulya Komarraju] In late March 2020, India declared a nation-wide lockdown, restricting the movement of people and services considered as non-essential in an effort to restrict the spread of Covid-19. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call of “Jaan hai tho jahan hai” (loosely translated as health is wealth) was an effort to justify […]

Hanging by a thread: The unraveling of the garment industry in Bangladesh

[By Mohammad Sahid Ullah] Around 4.1 million workers of the Bangladeshi apparel industry that exports ready-made garments to more than 165 countries across the world is facing a severe crisis amid the COVID19 epidemic. Many of them continue working in factories, to meet shipment deadlines, defying the government shut down order. Meanwhile, many factory owners […]

Technology for a social cause: TikTok and Asia’s mobile-first nations

[By Payal Arora] What does collective organizing look like in the digital age? Can we leverage on TikTok, the most downloaded app in 2020, to humanize the millions of informal laborers as they face unprecedented levels of precarity and help mobilize a global social conscience? Are there new geopolitical partnerships arising across governments, INGOs, the […]

Building on empathy: can we broaden the conversation?

[By Usha Raman] As India imposed a near-complete lockdown in March, accompanied by social distancing recommendations, things began to fall apart for the millions engaged in daily wage labour across multiple sectors. To them, the sudden absence of work meant the inability to pay for shelter and food, the barest needs to sustain oneself in […]

And so we begin, by organizing ourselves…

[By Payal Arora & Usha Raman] On January 27 2020, the team for ‘Feminist Approaches to Labour Collectives: Organizing Digitally in South Asia,’ a three-year grant funded project by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canadian agency, got together in Hyderabad, India, to launch this project. The goal for the meeting was to draw up […]


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