Publication Type:

Conference papers


Raphael Susewind


Work in a globalising world, April 8-10, Bielefeld (2013)




Lucknow, home to Ahmad and Aasim, is a strange place. Former Nawabs speak of their melancholia for a long gone past – but they don't feel melancholic at all. They own hotels in London and elsewhere. Politicians in turn speak of job creation through affirmative action for Muslims – but very few believe them. Nonetheless, they win elections with their promises. And aspiring Ulema propagate a masculine morality for the emerging middle classes, to which many find it hard to adjust. In this embroglio of competing discourses of what it means to be Muslim in contemporary Lucknow – historical, political, spiritual – Ahmad and Aasim, the protagonists of my paper, above long not to belong. Lucknow is their home, but that is surely no reason to stay. They want to work abroad – and they want a love marriage. Ahmad, the upper class boy, thus constantly makes plans to work as an intern in Singapur, maybe, or Honkong – not for money, but for experience and exposure as he assures me. He once knew a Chinese girl... Alas, he remains stuck in Lucknow. Aasim, on the other hand, the lower middle class opportunist without opportunity, spends his nights dreaming of Switzerland and its "negro" wifes, one of which he hopes will marry him. Ultimately, he ends up as a marginalized labourer in Dubai. By mapping out how both young men navigate their home-town Lucknow (based on long walks across the width and breadth of the city conducted during 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork), by following their dreams and longings, their masculine aspirations, their mental maps of the world and the material restraints of class and religion which both limit and enable their different trajectories, my paper adds a deliberate micro-level perspective to recent debates about work, class and gender in a "glocal" world.