Professional identities and servile realities: Aspirational labour in Delhi malls

Bardalai, Keya (2021) Professional identities and servile realities: Aspirational labour in Delhi malls. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 55 (2). pp. 200-223.

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Abstract: The article explores how retail workers envision and pursue aspirations for social mobility through employment in Delhi malls. Based on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation, this study examines how retail store employees cultivate professional occupational identities as a way of distancing themselves from informal and manual workers and claim a new class identity. The article also shows how workers come to view the job as dhoka (deceit), once they experience humiliation and disrespect at the hands of customers and managers and realise that such employment does not allow them to transcend their social class positions. However, they continue to stay on in these demeaning jobs because they believe that employment in the new service economy is their best option. By exploring retail workers’ narratives of majboori (constraint or compulsion) in this context, the article unpacks their contradictory experiences of work in the service sector and sheds light on youth aspirations and mobility strategies in post-liberalised India.
Item Type: Journal Paper
Keywords: Delhi malls, new service economy, professional identities, retail workers, social mobility, youth aspirations
Subjects: School of Social Sciences > Urbanization
Doctoral Programme > PhD Scholar Publications
Date Deposited: 30 Jul 2021 11:27
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2022 17:12
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    Funders: NIAS Fellowship for Doctoral Research
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