This book takes the present context of globalisation and the decline of large-scale industry as its entry point into the worlds of labour in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a wide range of oral and archival sources as well as popular literature, Chitra Joshi reconstructs working class lives, exploring their everyday worlds at the workplace and within community life outside, as well as their moments of conflict and struggle. Questioning frameworks within which workers are seen as mired in a primordial culture, or as passive objects of managerial strategies, this book examines how cultural pasts were reconstituted through worker practices, how social identities and work norms were actively negotiated by workers. It looks at the ways in which worker migrants confronted their new lives in the industrial city, struggling to retain their pasts, moving between the urban and the rural evolving alternative family and household survival strategies.
In analysing the complex relationship between past and present, memory and history, culture and practice, community and nation, everyday life and apocalyptic moments, this book represents one of the most major academic contributions to labour history in South Asia. 'Lost Worlds is, evidently, a work imbued with a profound and sophisticated grasp of questions of theory. Yet its primary purpose is not the testing out of one or other hypothesis...polemics figure very little within the text. What lingers in the mind, above all, is the sheer richness of the multiple narratives of labour and urban life... Lost Worlds, I will be bold enough to suggest, is labour history at its best...' -Sumit Sarkar Chitra Joshi's thorough account of the complexities of workers' lives and their struggles is one of the best books in the library of the real history of labour in India and in developing countries in general'. - Amiya Kumar Bagchi