Class, Caste, and Gender among Cashew Workers in the South Indian State of Kerala 1930–2000
The main concern of this paper is the issue of women workers' identity and class consciousness. This investigation is principally based on in-depth interviews with three generations of female factory workers. Extremely unequal power relations between capital and labour is insufficient to explain the more pronounced exploitation of female workers over males. In spite of these women having the potential for collective power, their factory lives have been characterized by treatment in constant violation of labour laws. Low-caste female workers have gone through a process of effeminization which has acted to curb their class identity and limit their scope of action. In the process of caste and class emancipation, the question of gender has been neglected by trade union leaders and politicians. The radicalism of males is built upon women's maintaining of the families – a reality which strongly contradicts hegemonic gender discourses and confuses gender identities.