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CSAS Lecture Series | Theorizing the Company Village: Corporate Social Responsibility in India’s Mining Belt

Sunila Kale, University of Washington, Seattle
Friday, March 26, 2021
4:30-6:00 PM
Off Campus Location
Over the last two decades, the pace and scale of private extractive industry in central and eastern India’s mountainous regions has intensified, producing a profusion of open cast mines, power plants, refineries, and steel plants that have converted vast agricultural and forestlands to new extractive and industrial use. Through the activities of their Corporate Social Responsibility units, firms become embedded in the countryside through what I call “company villages.” These are inversions of the “company town” of the past, which emerged in the 20th century as companies were forced by labor mobilization to enact programs for social welfare, redistribution, and development—what we might consider corporate social ethics—within the body of the firm itself. In a sector that is now heavily mechanized and capital-intensive, firms attempt to demonstrate their social ethics on sites and on behalf of communities that are exterior to and on the periphery of their plants and mines. In place of the labor-capital dynamics that produced hard-won welfare for workers in yesterday’s company towns, today’s extractive economies are marked by these company villages, as firms build and operate rehabilitation settlements, hospitals, schools, and cottage industries, extending the spatial reach of their presence far beyond the perimeters of mine pitheads and industrial plants. This talk will illustrate the dynamics of the “company village” by drawing on fieldwork at several locations in Odisha, India.

Sunila S. Kale is Associate Professor in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, where she also serves as Chair and Director of South Asia Studies. Her research and teaching focus on Indian and South Asian politics, energy studies, the political economy of development, and the history of capitalism. Her books include Electrifying India (Stanford 2014) and Mapping Power (OUP 2018). She is currently working on two book-length projects: one on corporate social responsibility and socio-economic change in the mining areas of eastern India, and a second on yoga in the world of politics (with Christian Lee Novetzke).

Registration for this Zoom lecture is required:

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: Asia, Business, India
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for South Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures