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Kristin Plys | Indian Coffee House and Contentious Politics during the Emergency, 1975-7
December 4, 2015, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Kristin Plys is a doctoral student in Sociology at Yale University. She will be on a fellowship at Gottingen University, Germany in Spring 2016. She has published a number of essays in a range of sociology journals on development in postcolonial economies, labor relations, and debates about the origins of capitalism. Her dissertation analyzes the politics of development in postcolonial India through the lens of Indian Coffee House. In 1947, in the heat of the national liberation movement, workers of the Coffee House, then operated by the British colonial coffee board, occupied their workplaces and assumed control of the firm. A decade later they began to self-manage production in the key New Delhi branch; subsequent branches followed suit.
“I look to two pivotal moments in postcolonial Indian history – Independence (1947) and The Emergency (1975) – to examine the Indian Coffee House workers’ conflictual relationship with the state over development policy and its outcomes. Coffee House workers crafted a series of new institutional practices and political and social movement approaches to state development strategy. My thesis embeds this analytical narrative in a larger sociological frame, examining the conditions under which representatives of working-class movements contended with, and developed alternatives to, dominant paradigms of economic development, thereby shaping the trajectory of national political economy. Why Indian Coffee House became and remained a potent center of institutional and cultural creativity over such a long period is a puzzle at the core of my dissertation.”