Circular Migration and the Spaces of Cultural Assertion


Correspondence: Department of Geography and Institute of Global Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, e-mail: (Gidwani); Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3100, e-mail: (Sivaramakrishnan).


Harnessing primary and secondary evidence from India, our essay conceptualizes the cultural dynamics of migration. In so doing, it demonstrates the incompleteness of standard marginalist and Marxist accounts of labor circulation. As a corrective, we examine the linkages between culture, politics, space, and labor mobility and offer a way to think about them by building on poststructural critiques of development and postcolonial theories of migrant subjectivity. The proverbial compression of space-time not only has made extralocal work more viable for members of proletarianized groups but, more importantly, has allowed them to transfer their experiences of new ways of being into local contexts through acts of consumption and labor deployment that can become elements of a Gramscian counterhegemonic praxis. We argue that the possibility of this sort of “body politics” compels not merely a critique of the modernization paradigm that has organized classical migration studies but, more profoundly, a reassessment of the way we understand modernity itself. We advocate an approach that provincializes the Eurowest and foregrounds the existence of pluritopic “regional modernities.”