Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Fixity: On the Inheritance and Maintenance of Tea Plantation Houses in Darjeeling, India

January 16, 2018

"Fixity: On the Inheritance and Maintenance of Tea Plantation Houses in Darjeeling, India" by Assistant Professor Sarah Besky was published in the November 2017 issue of American Ethnologist.  

On tea plantations in Darjeeling, India, a house comes with every job. These domestic spaces constitute a significant portion of workers’ compensation. Jobs—and the houses that come with them—are inherited by successive generations of workers, but houses remain the property of plantations. This article is grounded in archival and ethnographic stories about the provision, inheritance, and upkeep of houses, which bring attention to the continued importance of “fixity” to capitalist regimes of accumulation. Fixity, Besky argues, has three dimensions: a persistent association between ethnicity, place, and work; the fostering of senses of belonging through systems of inheritance; and the routine maintenance of infrastructures, including housing. As a theoretical and descriptive tool, fixity highlights a tension in late capitalism between work and life, and between freedom and bondage.

Read more here.