The economic enclaves that are being built across South India would appear to exemplify what Aihwa Ong has called ‘neoliberalism as exception’. Drawing on fieldwork in and around one ‘special economic zone’ in the state of Andhra Pradesh, this article critiques the language of exceptionality by exploring the structural continuities and dynamic interconnections between the zone and what continues to be called the ‘informal economy’. Rather than valorize India’s economic zones as manifestations of a juridical-discursive ‘exception’ in which the state experiments with alternative forms of market-oriented rule or as carceral spaces in which working populations are subjected to innovations in bio-political government this article shows how these zones formalize conditions of precariousness and political subjectivity that already characterize working life in much of South India, incorporating social networks and livelihoods that extend beyond their walls.
- economic zones
- informal economy