Encounters Over Tea: Labor, Gender, and Politics on an Indian Plantation

Chatterjee, Piya

     Encounters Over Tea is a historical and ethnographic study of the political cultures of a tea plantation in North Bengal. Its basic theoretical questions are concerned with the ways in which the neo-colonial Indian plantation remains an enduring cultural system of domination deeply rooted in its living colonial past. As such, it details the political cultures of patronage through which women and men workers consent and contest the plantation's many hegemonic compulsions. Given that a central logic of the plantation is focussed on intensive labor practices, the thesis locates an ethnographic examination of work within the cultural domains of productive activity in sites of cultivation and manufacture. Central to this anthropological exploration of work is the way in which labor cultures and practices are profoundly gendered. Women's tasks, and issues of marginalization and authority which are embedded within their daily lives, remains a critical analytic focus in this elaboration on plantation patronage. This focus is itself embedded within a discussion of the racialized and ethnicized social hierarchies through which the plantation's social world(s) also creates the broad parameters of its narratives, and counter-narratives, of power.