Far from Home, But at Home: Indian Migrant Workers in the Iranian Oil Industry

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This article revisits the life and times of Indian migrant workers in Persia/Iran
during the first half of the twentieth century, and discusses their contributions to
the founding, development and eventual consolidation of the Persian/Iranian oil
industry. A number of factors that shaped this experience are investigated. They
include the geographic and ethno-religious origins of Indian labourers; the policies
adopted by the oil company (APOC), labour agencies and the Government
of India to recruit workers and regulate their working conditions and terms of
contract; and the lived experience of the workers once they were hired and
began working in the Persian/Iranian oil industry.
Across nearly half a century, Indian workers in the Persian/Iranian oil industry
faced a variety of labour experiences ranging from coerced recruitment as
indentured workers during wartime, to wage labour with a negotiated contract
and protection under colonial labour laws. I will discuss how these workers
responded to the various recruitment policies, the demanding working
conditions and labour discipline imposed on them, their remuneration and
wage-structures, and their living conditions and housing situation.
Records of the lengthy presence of Indian workers in the oil industry provide
us with numerous stories of contestation, resistance and negotiations for better
working and living conditions. Ultimately, the story of Indian migrant workers
is also a story of accommodating within an emerging multinational corporation.
I situate the history of migrant labour agencies within the framework of colonial
labour practices. By examining the workers’ encounter with multiple class, ethnic
and territorial identities, I survey the changing relations of both solidarity and
discord between Indian migrant workers and indigenous Iranian workers.
Originele taal-2Engels
Pagina's (van-tot)85-114
Aantal pagina's29
TijdschriftStudies in History
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
StatusGepubliceerd - 2015


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