Colloquium Series: “Light Skin and Soft Skills: Training Northeast Migrants for the Hospitality Sector in India”

2018 Nov 09, Friday
Seminar Hall, 10th Floor, Pixel A (Azim Premji University)

About the Lecture

In a recruitment center in Dimapur, Nagaland, indigenous youth are trained for employment as service personnel in luxury hotels, restaurants and airlines. Most of them are unemployed, seeking new prospects outside Northeast India, and a way to transition from the harsh existence of subsistence agriculture. English language skills, a general cosmopolitan outlook and their fair complexion have proven key assets in securing work within the new hospitality industry. In this paper, I examine the activities at the recruitment center itself, and highlight how a skill set known as “soft skills” are taught by instructors to make the prospective migrants employable. Applying the concept of ‘affective labour’, I focus on a twin concept of care that young migrants struggle with: caring for customers in the hospitality sector and at the same time caring for the family, community, and ancestral lands back home they have left behind in Northeast India.


About the Speaker

Dolly Kikon is a senior lecturer at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her research focuses on the political economy of extractive resources, migration, development initiatives, gender relations, and human rights in Northeast India. Before coming to the University of Melbourne, Dr. Kikon led an interdisciplinary research project at the Department of Anthropology, Stockholm University. Her work focused on the increasing trend of outmigration among upland societies in Northeast India. The project titled, “The Indian Underbelly: Marginalization, Migration, and State Intervention in the Periphery,” examined the expansion and outcomes of developmental activities by the Indian state in areas associated with economic ‘backwardness’, subsistence agriculture, and armed conflict. Prior to obtaining her doctoral degree in Anthropology from Stanford University, Dr. Kikon worked as a human rights lawyer and a community organizer in India. Focusing on land rights among tribal communities in Northeast India, her legal advocacy works extensively dealt with constitutional provisions with regard to land and resource ownership, as well as autonomy arrangements for securing ethnic rights and guarantees.