From Pigs and Pollution to Plastics and Progress

Kaveri Gill

in Of Poverty and Plastic

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780198060864
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080175 | DOI:
From Pigs and Pollution to Plastics and Progress

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This chapter examines the social underpinnings of the scrap market, focusing on the dynamic relationship between low co-caste status, poverty, and engagement in the informal sector in contemporary India. It draws attention to a particular form of status enhancement undertaken by lower castes traditionally assigned occupations that are considered the greatest source of pollution, such as pig breeding, butchery, and the bristle trade, who upgrade their status by moving into the niche of processing and recycling of relatively clean plastic waste, the very materiality, nature of activity, and lucrativeness of which is representative of ‘development’ in the twenty-first century. The chapter looks, in particular, at the origins of plastic recycling as an economic livelihood and business activity undertaken by Khatiks in Delhi. It concludes by exploring how low caste identity is moulded within the economic domain of the urban informal economy, with a tendency to fashion itself into a cohesive group in the face of forces unleashed by liberalisation and the imperatives of modernity.

Keywords: India; pig breeding; scrap market; caste; poverty; informal economy; pollution; plastic recycling; Khatiks; liberalisation

Chapter.  15718 words. 

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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