Victims and agents: Young people's understanding of their social world in an urban neighbourhood in India
Scholarly accounts of children of the urban poor in South Asia often decry the exploitative conditions of child labour - the harsh and debilitating environmental conditions. At the same time, these accounts treat young people merely as victims and consequently leave out the felt experiences of working-class children and youth. Based on fieldwork among a marginalized leather worker community in an urban neighbourhood in India, this article aims to go beyond countering homogenizing perspectives and the challenge to the exploitation narrative. In doing so, I examine their specificity through ethnographic accounts of the ways in which young people actively construct their own identities, and reinterpret and negotiate adult notions of labour, caste, and community solidarity. Significantly these perspectives help us to comprehend the nature of youth discontent towards their traditional occupation. I analyse their discontent with the general declining employment opportunities in a globalizing Indian economy. Focusing on the youth cultures in the neighbourhood, I explore the conflicts within and between genders and generations emanating from the changing economic conditions.