International Labor and Working-Class History

Migrant Workers in the Middle East

Migration, Neoliberal Capitalism, and Islamic Reform in Kozhikode (Calicut), South India

Filippo Osellaa1 and Caroline Osellaa2

a1 University of Sussex

a2 School of Oriental and African Studies, UK


This article explores relationships between religious and economic practices in Kozhikode, a medium-sized city in Kerala. We examine debates concerning the apparent decline of the “bazaar economy” in the face of the onslaught of globalization and the consequent emergence of a “new economy.” The latter is felt locally to be overdetermined by capital and entrepreneurial practices connected, either directly or indirectly, to the combined effects of migration to the Gulf countries of West Asia and to the post-1991 liberalization of the Indian economy. We argue that these public debates are not simply reflections on the harsh reality of economic rationalization, but underscore the production and articulation of specific economies of morality and affect. We also perceive a drawing together of seemingly divergent orientations, sensibilities, and practices—namely, those commonly associated with reformist Islam and what in recent literature has been described as “neoliberal global capitalism.”

(Online publication May 17 2011)