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Roadwork: Expertise at work building roads in the Maldives

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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number2
Early online date23 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Mar 2020


This article engages critically with concepts of ‘skill’, ‘expertise’, and ‘capacity’ as they operate as markers of distinction and domination and shape migratory labour relations among road construction workers from across South Asia in the Maldives archipelago. The article examines roadwork at three levels: the professional biographies leading to ‘flexible specialization’ rather than technical expertise amongst Maldivian managers, the technical expertise and social incorporation of ‘skilled’ Sri Lankan supervisors, and the key material expertise of ‘non-skilled’ Bangladeshi labourers in precarious employment. Whilst discussions of South Asian labour migration have been dominated by caste and class, this article argues that it is also important to consider how the cultural production and understanding of concepts such as ‘expertise’, ‘capacity’, and ‘exposure’ at worksites can (also) become distinguishing factors in (hierarchical) migratory labour relations.

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ID: 121881373