Of glass, skills and life: trade consciousness among Firozabad’s glass workers

Arnaud Kaba, in "Third World Quarterly", 2023.


In Firozabad—a city in North India which specialises in glass production and is famous for being the centre of manufacturing for the billions of glass bangles worn by South Asian women—the Sheeshgarh caste used to master the most valuable skills. The transmission of these skills to other castes was a central stake, which highlights the relations between labour and capital, between dominants castes, between Muslims and Hindus. Therefore, this paper proposes the notion of trade consciousness to analyse the processes which shaped caste, gender and class relations around the common consciousness to be part of the same activity, the same community of practices. The paper then argues that understanding the way skills are introduced, transmitted and reproduced through master/apprentice relations, the everyday conviviality in the shopfloor, or in the mohallā, constitutes a crucial thread to understand the social transformation in Firozabad. Read more