Menon, S. (2023). Class, Caste, Gender, and the Materiality of Cement Houses in India. Antipode, 55 (2) 10.1111/anti.12898
Recently, large parts of India and the global South have experienced a rapid transformation from mud to cement houses, which has been promoted by governments and cement companies for its positive impacts on household socioeconomic status and gender inequalities. But we know little else about how different communities are participating in house transformation. In this paper, I study the embodied and affective dimensions of house transformation in Himachal Pradesh, India. I argue that house transformation is also the transformation of traditional gender and caste identities into new middle-class identities which benefits some social groups, like upper-caste women and Dalit men, but not others like Dalit women along intersectional lines. My work extends literature in infrastructure studies and urban political ecology by highlighting how the materiality of infrastructures interacts with everyday dimensions of difference to reproduce the marginalisation of historically oppressed groups along intersectional lines of class, caste, and gender.
I am grateful to the late environmental designer Didi Contractor and the people of Kandbari village in Himachal Pradesh, India for allowing me to work with them and learn from them. I am very grateful to Mara Goldman, Tim Oakes, Yaffa Truelove, Shawhin Roudbari, Jen Fluri, Anu Sabhlok, Nida Rehman, Aparna Parikh, Malini Ranganathan, Anne Rademacher, Himanshu Burte, Matt Turner, and Stephen Young for comments on earlier versions of this paper. I would also like to thank Marion Werner, Andy Kent, and three anonymous reviewers for their work in getting this paper published. The fieldwork for this paper was funded by the Adam Kolff Memorial Research Award in the Geography Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. Any errors or omissions are my own.