CPAS Seminar Series: Anushree Gupta & Dr Neha Gupta
Thursday 15 June, Anushree Gupta and Dr Neha Gupta will present about 'No AC' Uber driver campaign in India summer of 2022.
Welcome to the CPAS 2023 Seminar Series!
About the talk -- Solidarity in Heat: A case study of platform workers’ ‘No AC’ strike in Kolkata and Hyderabad
In this presentation, we examine platform workers’ agentic response to resist and navigate the economic precarities that platform work entails. Using the case study of the ‘No AC’ campaign organized by Uber drivers in the summer of 2022 in two Indian cities - Kolkata and Hyderabad - we unpack the actions and processes through which platform workers (re)affirm their position as agentive actors ‘despite precarity’. The high temperatures in both these cities precipitated a universal demand for cooling in outdoor urban environments, especially for those who are on the move. But while the platform promises air-conditioned rides to customers, 'arbitrary’ commission rates coupled with rising fuel prices leave the drivers with no real financial gain, forcing them to turn off the air conditioners. Set against the backdrop of multiple simultaneous crises, notably unstable fuel prices and labour market upheavals following the global COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing heat wave, we identify the campaign as a significant moment in the consolidation of the gig worker movement in India. To resist in these circumstances, workers sought to build new solidarities. Through this strike, workers challenged the algorithmically decided fares by refusing to turn on the air conditioner – even as they suffered the heat themselves – and registered their demands for a higher fare share and earnings. We read this act as a reworking of the platform heuristics that determine fares. Leveraging the shared experience with customers as urban citizens, the drivers conversed with customers during rides, convincing them to write to the platform on their behalf. This sociality, we argue, is an important tool deployed by workers to bridge the platform instituted asymmetry of differential affordances between drivers and customers. Such individual and collective agentic moments and the resulting successes of the campaign, however marginal, highlight the potentialities, possibilities, and new avenues of collaboration that coexist with(in) the structural constraints of platform work.
Dr Neha Gupta is a postdoctoral researcher with the Regional Futures project, a collaborative project between Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and University College London (UCL). She did her PhD at NIT Silchar and her doctoral thesis focused on the performative aspects of the digital. She has published research articles in Convergence, Studies in South Asian Film and Media, and Contemporary South Asia, among others. Her research interests include digital cultures, platforms, urban spaces, and mobilities. Connect with her on LinkedIn
Anushree Gupta is a PhD scholar at the Department of Liberal Arts at Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IITH). She is broadly interested in the intersections between digital technologies, communities and gendered forms of work/labor. Her doctoral research looks at the modes of organization, affects and infrastructures that underpinned the responses to COVID-19 in Hyderabad. Priori to this, she has also been part of various academic research projects that examined the social, cultural and political dimensions of digital technologies. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
1.30 Green couch room, Peter Baume Building 42a, Acton ACT 2601
To join virtually, please reach out to Abigail Hils (Abigail.firstname.lastname@example.org).