– For our second Global Issues Speaker Series event We’re happy to have you here, welcome This series was designed to showcase ACC Faculty expertise on global issues Our first event we held in February, was on the Syria crisis And today, we have our resident India expert, Professor Rennison Lalgee, who is going to speak about India and the impacts of globalization I had some remarks prepared about India but I think that Rennison has more than enough information to share with us He’s confident that he does (Rennison laughs) So without taking up more of his time, let’s welcome Rennison (audience applauds) – I got it All right, well, thank you I almost feel like I’m having a discussion in front of family and friends this evening But I do wanna thank William and International Programs specifically for doing events like this I think it’s really important for the ACC community, students, faculty, and the community at large And so, I do thank him for his efforts in putting this together So yes, the discussion is on the impact– India and the impact of globalization And it took me days to come up with that title And at the end of the day, I still didn’t like it, right? Because it assumes a few things, to get a little nerdy, is that India is being impacted by globalization, that globalization is the thing that impacts people There’s, just to get nerdy for a second, there’s discussion on globalization being nothing more than a continuation of Westernization and on development: developmental studies, moving people from the Third World to the First World, modernizing, all right? There’s this whole intellectual project And globalization is sort of its modern incarnation, and it implies tacitly a move from the West to the East And it’s a lot more complicated than that We’re impacted by globalization, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively Certainly, in India, one of the things that makes India fascinating is that we can see social change It’s kinda how I approached this It’s really about social change And while there might be global processes at play that might indirectly or directly lead to change, it doesn’t have to go one way Sometimes there’s resistance, sometimes there’s a boomerang effect, and so, I mentioned that just sort of the outset of, of the talk about the title on globalization Now, going back to India. So why India? Well, for me, the way I got to this study, just as a way of background and biographical information, I…My great, great grandparents are from India, and I grew up in the Virgin Islands, and then in Texas So while I might know more than the average American, it might have been this much more than the average American that I knew about India I had never been to India, no one in my family had ever been to India, very few people even spoke a language that was “Indian,” right? Hindi, or Gujarati Those are probably the only two languages that anybody in my family that was my grandmother…knew how to speak, and I sure didn’t how to speak it I learned a few words here and there, but most people spoke English because that was the island’s language So, in graduate school, I was all set to go to Guatemala to learn Spanish one summer And I got a grant in March, letting me go to India to study the impact of Gandhi and the environment And just like that, things changed So I go to India to do the study And I’m driving in a rickshaw one day, and I smell this really foul smell And so I asked my friend, Ravi, “Hey, what is that smell?” And he said, “It’s a tannery.” And I said, “Tannery?” He goes, “Yeah, tannery, leather.” And I said, “They do leather here?” Right? Because I had an assumption that…some of you may have heard this that the cow is sacred in India, and I thought, well, how could they be doing leather if the cow’s sacred? I mean, that seems kinda contradictory So I came back and I spoke to my advisors,
and they said, “Well, you should investigate that.” So that began my Master’s work on sort of deconstructing the cow I don’t know if anybody’s heard, like, this idea of the sacred cow, but it comes from this belief that the cow is sacred in India And so in this process of looking at texts, Vedic texts, Sanskrit texts, historical texts, anthropological texts, sociological texts, what you’ll find is there’s some truth to that But as a sociologist, that’s synchronous and socially constructed And from my perspective, the conclusion I arrived upon was, while it was sacred, there was an actual intellectual project that led to the cow being sort of the symbol of Hinduism So this is one point. I’ll step back and just kind of mention that India, for those of you who don’t know, their major religion is Hinduism And many people see Hinduism as polytheistic There are strands that see that as nothing more than the different gods are manifestations of the one god, right? And certainly some people treated it polytheistically, meaning worship of many gods But the other, sort of, major minority religion is Islam In fact, I think India has the third largest Muslim population in the world And when you consider Pakistan and Bangladesh on that, it’s even more Muslim people in that region of the world than you would find, certainly, in Saudi Arabia So you’ve got these two religious groups in India: Hindus and Muslims And the Hindus believe, in theory, that the cow is sacred “We must protect the cow.” So again, if you’ve ever eaten at a Indian restaurant, like, vegetarian fare is pretty big, right? That comes out of this belief that you shouldn’t harm living things It’s called “Ahimsa.” And certainly that belief has been attached to the cow, where one shouldn’t harm the cow So is the cow sacred? Well, yes and no The cow became a political symbol in the 1800s during colonialism This is another part of the story you have to know: the British colonized India That’s why so many Indian people know English, and British English, right? So, during this time, the Hindus and the Muslims couldn’t fight the British, because they had guns, so they fought each other as a way to fight the British That’s a war by proxy But what would happen is, the Muslims would slaughter cows on certain celebrations, like Eid, Ramadan, and the Hindus would get outraged And they would fire back by playing loud, obnoxious music in front of mosques And then, to like, build sentiment against each other, one would, again, slaughter a cow, the other one would complain to the government, play more obnoxious music, and on and on it went But during this time, this is where this idea of the cow being sacred to Hindu identity sort of crystallized, at least in modern times So part of my investigation in the leather industry was asking, like, if we believe in sociology, but there was contention that in time, sort of, rational thought or reason will come to rule why are these cultural impediments still surviving? Why are we still having cow protection sentiments surving in India? I mean, it stands to reason that it would just go away, but that’s what makes India interesting, right? Is that you can have both You can have, sort of, means and rationality of “Let’s make money from leather.” And you can still have cow protection Because if I really wanted to study leather, sort of globally, the place to go is China, just to kind of take a little detour China was nowhere in the leather production map 50 years ago, and everybody here today go to the mall, and go to a leather store, and look and see where their shoes, or bags, or jackets are made: China. I mean, everything’s made in China now, right? But leather specifically Leather is, I mean…The Chinese are leaps and bounds ahead of everyone And India…Let’s say they made this much leather 50 years ago They make this much leather now It’s still a big– (mic echo) It’s still a big earner for them I’m gonna take this off here in a minute It’s still a big earner for them, but it’s not what it could be, right?
So you start asking yourself, “Well, why not?” Well, there’s the cow protection stuff, in part So I did this, and then, for the dissertation, one of the things that we started discovering was, at the time of the study The current government in India is the BJP The BJP is a Hindu nationalist party It would be like if the Baptists decided to start their own party And yes, we could joke that’d be the Republicans but literally, the BJP is a party founded on Hindu nationalism: India for Hindus They…in fact, you could argue They actually have said they believe that all Indians are actually Hindus in disguise So if you’re a Muslim, you’re just a misguided Hindu, that don’t realize you’re a Hindu, right? If you’re a Christian, you’re just misguided Because, and really, to some degree, they’re kinda right, because Islam came with the Moghuls Christianity came with Thomas Doubting Thomas, right? And Buddhism…well, Buddhism is from India So you could argue that at least that’s indigenous So the BJP came to power in part in the 1990s on cow protection sentiments They went to the sort of Bible…the “Cowbell,” that’s what they called it, the poorest parts of India in the middle And they said, “Hey, vote for us “We’re gonna protect the cows.” And the Hindu sentiment was like, “Yeah, let’s do this “Let’s protect the cow.” And then the next week, they said, “We support the leather industry “More funding for the leather industry.” So I’m reading all this stuff, and I’m thinking, “What is going on in India? “This is crazy, right?” How can you have on the one hand, “Let’s protect the cow,” and on the other hand, “Let’s kill the cow and make money.” Now, around all of this is the fact that India has about 300 million cows, the world’s largest cow population That’s a lot of cows, 300 million So in my sort of American thinking, I’m thinking to myself, “Well, gosh, this is great “They’re poor, and they’ve got this industry “they can make money on “They don’t have to buy cows, “they can just kill cows, and make money.” Maybe, maybe. 300 million cows That’s a lot of cows You don’t have to import them, you have to buy them. You got 300 million cows, okay? So of course, the cows exist because there’s a protection against it No one’s gonna kill the cows There’s all kinds of stories as to why cows still are being protected It’s a functional argument Marvin Harris, who’s an anthropologist, says that part of the reason the cow exists, or is protected, is because the farmers know that the cow has greater utility than just food If you kill a cow and eat it, it’s dead, it’s gone, right? But a living cow can produce milk, it can produce labor The poorest of the poor in villages use the dung as fuel If you dry the dung out, you can burn it, and it can be used as fuel You can actually use the dung as paste to keep the dirt down on the floors so they don’t get dusty Very, very functional And of course, the milk can be used for just milk, for cheese, for ghee, which is a like an oil, butter, right? Very functional So even in times of drought, the cow survived The meat is a one-time deal But that cow is like a car that you keep fixing, you keep getting mileage out of it So the functional argument is partially there It doesn’t always hold up because there is a cost In times of drought, if there’s no grass to be found, there comes a point where you might be better off killing the cow And there was a great drought that actually in 1900 This is where I’m gonna get a little in trouble for giving you too much information But this drought affected so many cows that it actually spurred a new sort of practice globally of getting skins from India People couldn’t give their cows away Like, things have gotten so bad, the cows are gonna die anyway There’s very little water So people wanted to at least get some money for the skins and hides, and they couldn’t give it away Just thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of cows were slaughtered, and meat was wasted, skins were wasted But things were that desperate, right? That actually impacted the leather industry And I guess let me take a step back The reason we’re talking about the leather industry, again, is because in the 1990’s India decided to, sort of, start working
more with the global economic system Prior to that, they were a planned economy and a socialist economy So what does that mean? Well, it means the state controlled the economy, right? Capital was limited, you couldn’t just take loans Economies like India wanted to keep money in India They wanted to support Indian industries, because India had several hundred million people And as Gandhi had said, their primary resource was their people They had labor, right? Gandhi wasn’t anti-machine, but he said, “Why would you create a machine “that saves labor when you have a surplus of it?” Right? So he wanted to support local industries, as opposed to being dependent on foreign governments to bring stuff in So the government started trying to control the entire economy by supporting what they called “cottage industries” to meet the needs of the people You find this in a lot of countries…’60s, ’70s, ’50s People had their own sodas, their own cars, their own kind of electronics And it might be kinda subpar from what we would expect, but at least they didn’t have to buy it from somebody else, right? And people in that country got employed to make these things, okay? So all this is going on in India And the leather industry, for me, it became sort of this nexus of the old and the new, this place to examine social change So yeah, that’s how I got to this, right? Okay. So now, what does it have to do with globalization? Well, when I went to India, I interviewed managers, I went to plants that were creating shoes, leather shoes, leather products, and leather, okay? China is not interesting in this because there’s no cultural prohibition against it India has lots of cultural prohibitions against working in leather Growing up as a child, if you wanted to slur someone in my family, you call them a Chamar or a Madinga Now, those are just words that sounded mean, right? I hear people say it, I go, “Oh man, that sounds mean.” So I’m doing this research, and I find that Chamar is actually a caste that works with leather And Madinga is a group of Muslims that work with leather, right? I mean that…So my family’s from Trinidad Those terms survived that transit to where that’s still the case today So you’ve got groups of people in India that are responsible for working with leather, this dirty industry So let me take a step back For those of you who aren’t familiar with India, there’s something called the caste system that exists in India And the way I tend to explain it to my students is, it’s similar to the estate days when people were royalty, or they had guilds of, like, blacksmiths, millers, right? The ketttle master, the guy who was the baker You kinda…you’re the baker, and your kid’s a baker And then his kid’s a baker You’re the blacksmith, your kid’s a blacksmith So you have these groupings And then, if you’re a duke, you give rise to another duke, and so on, right? Everybody has their place, everybody’s functional Well, caste is like that So you’ve got, sort of, the four categories of castes and there’s a hierarchy And it’s not important, like, which is which, but at the very bottom, just almost right outside that caste system are the so-called “untouchables” as some of you may have heard about And it’s in this grouping that you find the Chamars, the leather workers Now, caste is very functional At least historically that’s what it was for There were castes that make sweets, there were castes that cut hair, there were castes that made pottery, there were castes that picked up dead animals There were castes that made bags out of those dead animals, or shoes out of those dead animals Castes. Very functional, very much like a guild But of course, the lowest of the low did the dirtiest work Big surprise, okay? A stigma is attached to that So, anybody here…? Everyone’s heard of the word “thug,” like a thug?
This is sort of the…So for instance, we talk about stigma The word “thug” comes from the caste, “Thuggee.” And the Thuggees were a caste that were literally outlawed by the British, because they went around, like, messing with the British, like, stealing from them, blowing stuff up, taking from them And the British said, “We are outlawing you.” And to this day, to be a part of the Thuggee caste, people see you as a criminal You’re stigmatized, right? We get that word “thug” from that So, I mean, stigma is a pretty powerful thing that’s attached to certain caste members And in Hinduism–we’re talking about Hinduism– I know it’s, like, an epic story I know, okay What Hinduism…Hinduism has elements where they believe in sort of, purity of the soul That you can kinda get to, like, the next best place, right? Without getting into the details of Hinduism But to be polluted and to deal with with garbage, and dead things, that’s to pollute you, and prevent you from getting to that next best place So you don’t wanna be a Chamar You don’t wanna work with leather You don’t wanna cut hair Because that’s ritually polluting You gotta purify yourself So of course, in modern times, people don’t wanna do this But now, we have an industry that’s poised to make money on it So there’s pressure to do it In fact, in going over some of my notes for this talk, I was reminded that there were people that were trying to leave these professions, because they didn’t like being associated with it Which, you know, why would you? I mean, you get treated poorly, you don’t get access to good jobs, better paying jobs You’re kinda stuck, right? And they’re trying to leave these professions And some lost their lives because when they stopped doing the job for the community, there was pressure for them to go back and do it But I mean, that’s the kind of groundwork we’re looking at, that is culturally supported, religiously supported, and functionally supported We need you picking that garbage up, all right? We need you cleaning the latrines, ’cause if you don’t do it, I’m not gonna do it And there’s sort of religious justification for it Some of us have heard the term “karma.” There’s a word “dharma” that means duty, like D-U-T-Y, like your job And part of having good karma is to do your duty So if your job is to be a toilet cleaner, be the damn best toilet cleaner ever And that’ll get you better karma You sit around, like complaing about it, that just gives you bad karma So you can’t get to the next higher level There’s all kinds of functional, religious requirements that keeps people in their place, and tells them to enjoy it, right? ‘Cause that’ll help you get to a better place next time, because there’s reincarnation that you may have heard And so, so here you have these leather workers wanting to escape this life And they’re sort of being told, “No, you can’t, you have to kinda come back and do it.” On the other hand, there are poor people, and this is what I found interesting There are poor agricultural workers who will do the same work it’s still dirty but because they’re not part of that caste, they don’t face the same stigma That’s how complex caste is See, we think about…our only reference point here is race, right? And, you know, if you take a sociology class, you know race is a construct We attach things to it, we make it up But caste is a construct, too And I gotta tell you, in all the time I’ve been going to India, I can’t figure it out It’s too complicated Race I can figure out We all can If you live in this country long enough, you know what the rules are You know that race is dependent on where you are, when you are Some contexts, you can be light enough Some contexts, you’re too dark Some contexts, if you have enough money and the right clothes, you can overcome race Very complicated But it’s made up But in India, the rules are a lot more specific, particularly when it comes to caste But they’re also flexible, right? So let’s go back to the leather industry So we have an industry that historically has worked with these poor, uneducated caste members It’s been run primarily by Muslims Now that’s something that we need to pay attention to, because we’re talking about the impact to globalization Like, what’s happening now? Well, let’s talk about what it used to look like Muslim families dominated the industry. Why? Because there is no prohibition of working with cows or slaughtering cows in Islam Muslims like beef
Just like a lot of Americans like hamburgers, they got no problems with it, right? So they dominate the industry They’re the leaders of the industry, they’re the ones making money on the industry Now, think about this Coming forward for a second, I said that the BJP came to power on cow protection and on supporting the leather industry, right? Two very sort of divergent ideas They’re supporting an industry dominated by Muslims That’s another thing that made me go, “What?” Right? Because the BJP had been accused in the 1990’s of, in fact…Modi, who’s now the president, was accused of at least not doing things to prevent the murder of several Muslims during riots in Gujarat Like, he was actually…the term “war criminal’s” attached to him, right? At one point So that’s the kind of animosity we’re talking about between Muslims and Hindus And this very party that’s pro-Hindu supports an industry that’s dominated by Muslims ‘Cause at the end of the day, people wanna make money See, we’re coming back to this sort of cow protection or cow sacredness as sort of being idealized, right? It’s a lot more complex than that You go to India, you’ll see cows eating garbage But if you hit a cow with your car, you better run I mean, literally, get out of your car and run, run and hide Because they will chase you down and kill you No, no, we can laugh, but you get out of your car and run, don’t hit a cow It’s not the idealization we have in our head There’s actually, as an aside, talking about globalization, people started eating beef That one I don’t know enough to talk more about That’s a poverty issue. Beef is cheaper And they’re trying to make money in an industry that is culturally repugnant in large parts of India I don’t know how that’s gonna play itself out But let’s go back, let’s go back to globalization So we’ve got the leather industry: poor people, Hindus-lower caste Hindus, dominated by a Muslim population The other thing to know about Muslims in India– they are demographically the poorest group of all groups They are poorer than the poorest untouchable, as a group The reason for that is because after independence, the government established what we call “Affirmative Action.” They call it “Reservation.” There were reservations in places like government, universities, medical school, for the lowest, what they called Scheduled Castes, or the untouchables, right? That doesn’t include Muslims The Muslims have no institutional way to advance in society They literally have to pull themselves up by themselves, or get lucky, because the only people who technically qualify for this “affirmative action” are people in the Hindu religion, who have historically been in the lower caste So you actually have higher-caste Hindus like Brahmins, complaining about how difficult life is for them, because now they have to be even better, because these low castes are getting all these positions Now, they’ll fail to tell you that they live in a nice house And they live in a nice house because their father was a Brahmin, and their father benefited from being a Brahmin And when they walk down the streets, people give them respect, and treat them better because they’re Brahmins They won’t tell you that If some of this sounds familiar, it should, at least in an American context But it’s true There are some lower-caste folks that have benefited from “reservations,” affirmative action Muslims do not But in many ways, and this is something my study didn’t get into, but in many ways, the leather industry functioned for Muslims the way the Baptist Church for African-Americans functioned in the 1960’s It was a place that afforded them leadership opportunities, a place to congregate, a place to organize, a place to interact socially, a place to get information out quickly, a place to mentor, right? The network The industry was a very important place for Muslim Indians So that is sort of, like, the people in the historical part of India in this industry
The other part I wanna tell you about is the industry itself, what it looked like The industry was primitive at best It was small scale, there was very little technological advancement, and in terms of a commodity chain, and let me tell you what a commodity chain is real quick So, all commodity chain is, is a concept used to describe the various processes that occur before a finished product is produced So a T shirt, right?, You’ve gotta grow cotton, you’ve gotta pick the cotton, you’ve gotta process the cotton, you’ve gotta turn that into thread, you’ve gotta dye the thread, you’ve gotta weave the thread into fabric, you’ve gotta sew, cut and sew the fabric, and then, you put it in a little plastic bag, and you sell it, or you put it on a shelf somewhere and you sell it That’s a commodity chain Not all those things happen in one place And we know that, we know that with all kinds of products We import pieces from different places We assemble pieces in certain areas We send them somewhere else and it gets finished That’s the commodity chain So with leather, India was on the very bottom of the commodity chain, taking leather and producing either semi-finished or finished leather And then, exporting it somewhere else, where they can make shoes out of it, jackets out of it, gloves out of it, and then selling it back somewhere else for more money You wanna be at the high end of the commodity chain You can make more money for a finished product, right? Because you put it all together Same thing with leather So historically, the leather industry– poor people, uneducated, Muslim-dominated, but still Hindu labor Small scale, very small industry, small businesses, no technology But what do we have now? Well, you still have that But you have slightly bigger firms trying to become like Chinese firms So let’s say a large Indian firm has 300 people employed in it A large Chinese firm will have 5,000 people employed That’s the kind of scale we’re talking about, okay? They are now trying to do many different things So now, we’re talking about the impact of globalization So now, they’re trying to not only produce the leather, they’re trying to produce the shoes They’re not only trying to produce the shoes, they’re trying to figure out which kind of colors that the shoes will have They’re trying to figure out what kind of, like, laces that will have They’re trying to determine…See, these are things that other countries did before So think about fashion Now, this is the part that I gotta tell you all, I learned too much about I had no idea that women’s shoes had so many styles in any given year No, you laugh. No idea And we’re talking about styles, and then, we’re not even talking about colors, okay? There’s a whole industry that determines next year’s colors Now, that’s not just a determination, you have to be able to produce those colors and put it on something to sell And you gotta be able to produce those colors consistently You don’t wanna have, like, red, and then kinda red Like in the next shoe, right? You wanna have equally red shoes all the way through And so that’s what we called an ancillary industry that supports leather and leather production in India And so none of that stuff existed before Now, as an aside, the Germans are really good at chemicals People like Bayer, and we think of Bayer aspirin, but they make chemicals BASF, I mean they make chemicals, and India has to buy them But the industry is actually spurring other, sort of, people on to create their own chemicals And they’re trying to, sort of, be proactive in helping determine what colors come into fashion the next year, so that they can be ahead of the curve and not reacting to the decisions made, like, in Milan, right? This is globalization You see, when we think of globalization, we tend to think of, “Oh, we’re driving more scooters “We have satellite TV “We have more cell phones.” And that part is true That is a part of social change But in terms of actually seeing, like, okay, what’s really happening that’s changing? That’s a big change It’s a change because nobody would have been People wouldn’t have anticipated that this is what the industry would have done because of the opportunity to make money Because they realize to make more money, we can’t just make leather and turn it into shoes, and then try to sell it We have to produce all of it We have to put zippers on there,
we have to put snaps, like, you know, the snap things together, that look neat, that have, like, a distressed look, or a shiny look, or a chrome look Whatever we want, we need to be able to produce that here So you have leather companies, or tanneries, which is where the real dirty work happens with leather This is where you take the dead animal skin, take the hair off of it, put a bunch of really nasty chemicals on it and prevent it from rotting, right? And then, like, make it soft, and then, dye it so that you can have leather, just like fabric, right? That you can then cut, and sew, and turn into something That’s the tanneries That’s all India had historically Now, you’ve got tanners that decide, “Okay, I’m going to tan leather, “and I’m gonna make shoe uppers.” So a shoe upper, just so you guys know, is everything above the sole And that might cost them $5 to make, at most, and you’ll spend 60 bucks on the shoes, right? But of course, it costs them $5 And they may make $7, $2 profit Like sell it for $7 to whoever puts the sole on it, and the Chinese firms might be the one doing that That’s where India is trying to get to in terms of globalization And they’re not able to get there just yet So let’s talk a little bit about some of the things that are occurring within the industry as a result of globalization or as a reaction to it So let me talk about one I’m calling him Bijou, for anonymity’s sake Not that y’all would know him “Hey, he’s talking about you.” But one of the managers I talked to, one of my favorite interviews was a guy probably a little older than me And I liked the interview because at one point, it kinda felt like I was a bartender, and he was pouring his soul out to me Like if I was gonna give him an answer to his problems, which I was just happy he was talking to me But he started telling me how he inherited the company from his dad, which is an Indian model We don’t think of business here as, like, family businesses But, I mean, Walmart’s a family business We don’t think of it that way, but it is And India certainly has their version of Walmart, in terms of big conglomerates that are owned by families The Tata family, the Reliance family, the Berala family, these are all huge They’re in steel, IT, telecommunications, you name it But then, there’s the rank-and-file businesses that own…like a leather industry, a gym shop, a textile factory And so Bijou, his dad owned the factory, and it was a tannery So when Bijou took over, he decided he wanted to make shoes He wanted to make children’s shoes for German market So he started making children’s shoes, and he got really good at it In the process, however, he wanted to make the company bigger But he didn’t have time to run both the tannery and the shoe manufacturing part Because part of making shoes is you have to have a market for it So you can’t just make shoes, you have to go find customers, and you have to woo them, and you have to tell them that “Yes, we’ll produce shoes “that are safe for young children to wear in Germany.” Because Germans don’t want their kids wearing shoes that have, like, caustic cancer-causing chemicals on them We’re okay with that, but they don’t, they don’t want that No, no, it’s true. Like, we’re okay with that stuff So Bijou now has to produce these shoes, convince those customers that he’s following international standards, and that they’re cute They’re cute shoes That’s a big deal, right? You gotta produce cute shoes Nobody wants their kids in ugly shoes So he’s doing all that, and it’s taking way too much time But he tells me he, decides to pay the manager of his tannery, let’s say, $50,000 a year And his mom loses it “What?” he tells me He tells me, “Son, that’s twice what your uncle made “and your dad made when “they were running the tannery “How can you be paying these strangers that much money?” And he’s looking at me telling me, “What am I to do? “I have to have a professional staff, and this is what a professional staff should get paid.” And then he tells me, “But you know what happens? “They’ll still call me and ask me,
“Should we do the red or the blue? “What should we do with this? “Should we stitch this or not stitch this? “What should we do with the five extra that we have?” “Because I don’t have time for this “Because I’m paying you a salary, make those decisions.” So you have real, like, ambivalence You have tensions here, where this guy is trying to meet a global consumer demand, and grow his business And he’s trying to do so by the practices we’re all familiar with: pay people more money to do the job and let them do it But even those people, as they get more of that money, they have no framework on which to operate They don’t have that history of going, “Yeah, he’s paying me a lot of money to make decisions.” The framework they have is, “Yes, boss. Boss is dad “I ask dad everything “I ask for permission for everything.” But he’s getting pressure from his family ’cause he’s paying these people too much money And the same people he’s paying all this money to, they’re still not doing the job, right? So, I mean, part of what I was trying to look at, and this is why I interviewed managers just to kinda get back from a method’s perspective You’ve got these global demands by, say, like, world trade, right? Like, we’ve got the global consumer We have to have cute shoes that are safe for our kids to wear at a reasonable price, okay? And this guy goes, “Great, I’m a modern company “I wanna hook you up.” But then he’s got this going on, where he can’t even pay his managers more money without hearing it from his family And then worse, the manager is not doing the job that they’re asked, not because they’re incompetent, but because of cultural practices that prevent them from just doing the job And that’s just on that level, right? The…Again, in researching for this, on any given day the staff has about a 10 to 15% absentee rate Now, comparatively speaking, in the United States, companies have about a 2% absentee rate People are gonna call in sick, but 2% is kind of a benchmark, but we have absenteeism in America 10 to 15% in the tannery And when talking to the managers about this, that was just a part of doing business So why are people absent? Well, it depends It could be that there was a festival in the village Everybody just decided to stay home It could be that if they have a large female staff, which that’s another thing we’ll talk about is the place of women in the new industry, but if they have a female staff, there could be, and this is their words, “domestic issues.” Right? And that can be any kind of thing from a fight with the husband, a physical altercation, a father saying, “No, you’re not going to work today “We need you to stay home and do stuff.” They could have a sick child They themselves could be sick So any number of reasons could keep a woman from coming to work But for men, and this is the thing I thought was interesting Again, I said this is a population that’s poor, stigmatized and historically underprivileged Nutrition. Several managers took it as something for granted that their workers’ health just isn’t what it needs to be to come to work every day From a nutritional standpoint, and from just the nature of the job If you work with cancerous-causing chemicals, you’re gonna get sick, right? It could kill you And they don’t have OSHA in India, just FYI, the Occupational Safety Hazard Agency So you’ve got guys, like, with no gloves, putting their hands in things that they should have gloves on There’s none of these, like, masks There’s no, like, rubber boots, hard hats The most cynical thing I ever heard was, and this was from a reporter, so to put it in context, was that his opinion of the tanners is that they see people as interchangeable parts at this level of society, right? Somebody dies, somebody else takes their place And I said cynical I’m not saying that there aren’t people that have a view like that, or even functionally, they see workers like that But there is an element of traing that does have to happen So I don’t think it’s as simple as that, to say that there is a sort of real negative view of humanity, but it is a disposable population
India has 1.2 billion people. A lot of people I mean, Gandhi wasn’t wrong They have a surplus of labor, right? There’s no reason to have cost-cutting or time-saving machinery when you have that much labor at your disposal In fact, one of the managers mentioned that wherever it’s cheapest to produce leather or any product, that’s where the businesses will go And that makes sense We all recognize that in the system that we live in He said, “But in India…where in Germany, “they’ll take a machine, “and it’ll cut fabric, or leather. In India, “I can have somebody for an 1/8 of the price, “cut it by hand and work around, like, “imperfections in the leather “A machine can’t do that.” That’s how cheap the labor is still, right? People will make money, and they can buy hand-cut things, and work around defections So just a little bit of technical information for you Whenever you see shoes with those strips, like you see those in summer sandals, right? It’s a good likelihood that the leather for that had imperfections on it And that’s one way not to waste it You cut it up in strips, and you don’t see those holes or bite marks from bugs But with a jacket, you certainly want something Like, skin is like…an animal skin is like our skin It scars, it cuts, it has imperfections from bites And you certainly want to minimize those just because it doesn’t look as nice And so, machines can cut nice leather automatically But if there are imperfections, and you wanna maximize the skin, a human hand is better for that And labor in India is plentiful and cheap, right? So that’s just something that is a characteristic of the modern industry So, how are we doing on time? All right. Ah, man Running out of energy here I need to have some coffee (giggles) So there’s a lot I haven’t talked about, but let’s go back to the factories So the factories are trying to meet this global consumer demand And one of the things that came out of this that was most interesting was India has some of the best labor laws in the world It’s very favorable to the worker, okay? Part of that is a result of independence, and Gandhi wanting to favor, sort of, local village production, and to support independence Not just independence from Britain, but, sort of, economic independence They wanted to produce their own goods and services without having to rely on foreign governments And actually, if you think about that, that’s kind of a good plan, right? I mean, we have people complaing right now about our dependence on oil from the Middle East We don’t think of ourselves as dependent on other places, but we are, and Gandhi wanted to minimize that for a poor, struggling new country And so a lot of the initial labor laws really support workers and worker rights One of the things that the government did as well to, kind of, manage this process was, it put restrictions to how big companies could get Not industries. So certain, like, heavy industries: steel, telecommunications, rail, these things could be state run and be big Oil, okay? Manufacturing can be big But if you run a textile shop, you make cotton shoes–small You get too big, and then Just like we have ADA compliance laws here, where if you’re a small mom-and-pop shop you don’t have to follow certain American with Disabilities Act issues, or policies If you get to be a certain size, then you have to start following these things It’s the same in India with the labor laws So what happens, many times, is firms will get to be what we called “midsize” from an Indian perspective And any bigger, and now, they run the risk of falling under the rules of some of these labor laws A lot of the shoe factories that you find in India want to be bigger, but they are afraid to be bigger But how does this impact business? Well, if my output every year is, on a good year, if everything’s working perfectly, I can make 50,000 pairs of shoes, let’s just say
And Nike comes to me and says, “We want another 25,000.” I don’t have the capacity for that, right? And you know, Nike’s gonna say, “I want 100,000, not just 50,000.” So what do I do? Well, it’s kind of a well-known secret, and I don’t even say it’s a secret, but what all these companies end up doing something they call “job works.” They basically outsource it to local companies that are smaller And, whatever they pay them to make the extra 25,000, they actually make a profit on So if Nike is paying them $1 for each pair of shoe, they’re gonna pay that guy 50 cents And they’re gonna make the dollar from Nike and the 50 cents Whatever the costs are, they’re gonna pass it along to this guy And that guy is happy for it, because this gets him in the game Whereas the problem for him is that he hasn’t other protections, and he’s dependent, he’s dependent on this midsize firm And he’s got his own problems, too Because all those people that missed work, he has to deal with that But now, if Nike goes away, which that’s what global capital does, right? They said, “Oh, you know what? “This shoe didn’t work that good for us “We don’t want any more of it.” The firm that was working with Nike doesn’t have to fire anyone, just like you do with an outsource, or a subcontractor, right? When you’re not an employee, you have no guaranteed rights, no unemployment insurance You just get let go You become redundant, right? One of my favorite terms for laid off So this happens all throughout the industry, where there’s these job works And the one…I’m reluctant to tell the stor, but one of the job work managers I spoke to said, he’s kinda like a wife in India I’ll keep it PG You pretty much do what you’re told, right? You cook food, you’re given the groceries, you just cook it and shut up But I thought was kinda dark, but that’s the relationship It’s exploitative, but at least, that’s how they get around the labor laws Because if they get too big, and they lose that business, they can’t fire people, and they’re not allowed to file bankruptcy Now think about that, right? That’s actually fantastic from a labor perspective And that law actually came about because of agricultural workers India was very much an agricultural country And the law came around to help agricultural workers in times of drought, but it applies to everybody As an aside, in Chennai, I was in South India, and in Chennai, which is a big city in the south, they have what they call “Special Economic Zones.” SEZs And Ford makes cars there inside these special economic zones And the best way I can describe it is, it’s like a no-man’s land in your country Labor laws do not apply in those special economic zones I think short of killing somebody, the Government of India pretends that it’s not even India Now, if you killed…if you murdered someone, okay, maybe they can step in at that point But if you wanna work them 15 hours and pay them for 12, that’s a special economic zone And they produce cars, they produce other heavy industrial machinery And it’s a way for Indian workers to make money Now, I’m not saying that they’re abused I don’t wanna only give that impression, but from a legal perspective, it’s not a panacea I mean, it’s outside the judicial realm of the government And that’s an agreement that the government made with the factory and the owners of those companies so that there can be manufacturing to take place in these special economic zones On an Indian firm, however, you have to pay people, even if you’re not making money That’s a guarantee So that’s one thing that we found that the manufacturers, the leather manufacturing companies were That’s how they responded to this cris, right? Of having to grow but being limited by laws in their own country They have started to get foreign direct investment, called FDI That is something previously to 1990 that was not available to them And the Indian government was sensitive to having foreign control of local businesses But now, with globalization,
that’s something that’s changing There’s a lot of partnerships and consortiums being started to circumvent some of these laws And that’s what you’re finding, is that there’s circumvention That’s how they’re dealing with some of this stuff, right? But I guess ultimately…Like for me, like, the thing that really happened with globalization, in terms of the impact of looking at the leather industry, it was a way of thinking Like Bijou, right? Bijou wanted to grow his business and he really wanted to professionalize his staff, offer things like training Things that didn’t happen before And he met resistance both from the people he was trying to professionalize, and from his own family And then worse, he tells me was that the tannery is seen as one of the cornerstones of the industry Leather doesn’t get produced anywhere but at that tannery Without leather, you can’t make shoes, you can’t make gloves, you can’t make, you know, all the other things from it And the tannery is kind of like, even though it’s, like, the lower end of the commodity chain, it’s, like, the cornerstone And Indians are really, really good at it And there’s something, sort of, culturally that they don’t wanna get rid of that, because everyone knows they’re good at it Even the Italians. The Italians know they’re good at it And he’s spending less and less time at his tannery, and he’s worried about that He’s worried because he thinks at some point, he will be able to use the tannery to source his own leather without having to go out elsewhere for his own leather But if he loses the tannery, the thing he’s not paying attention to, now, he has to start trying to find quality leather at good prices, right? Now, he’s not the only one in this quandary, but other people are reacting to it differently Some people kinda see it as shortsighted to have, sort of a “slave” company, that is not efficient, right? If I can buy leather cheaper from you instead of you getting it from my tannery, I’m saving money if I buy it from you Or I shouldn’t use…I shouldn’t have used my tannery, and have them produce things that are too expensive, because ultimately, it comes out of my pocket I’m better off going somewhere else to get it cheaper That is, sort of, antithetical to what people have been thinking before That tannery is, like, where it all began That’s almost, like, the identity of a company, is that they start from a tannery In fact, I don’t think I interviewed anyone who didn’t start from a tannery No matter how big the shoemaker was, or glove-maker, or jacket-maker, they all had a tannery, all of them And with varying experiences, they all wanted to keep it, right? No one just one day decided “I’m gonna start I’m making shoes, “and I’m gonna get my leather from a tannery.” Now, I did interview tanners that were just tanners And those guys, their family have been doing that for, like 150, years And I’ve visited those places, and it looks like it was 150 years ago I mean, that’s what I was telling you With the industry, there’s this mix of very modern, in an Indian sense, and then very old I went to a cow-cutting, not a cow-slaughter but a cow-cutting, and it was at a Muslim abattoir that, in the middle of the night, as to not arouse feelings from passersby that a cow-slaughter was occurring And it was literally built, like, during colonial times And the way it was then is the way it is now, with the exception of the Coke bottle that was on the side, right? I’m sure they didn’t have Coke, like, 200 years ago And so, there’s a lot of the industry that’s still the “historical” type, what we saw, like, 200-300 years ago And then, there is this new, sort of, emerging attempt to look at things like fashion, and color, and snap-ons, and zips, and buttons, right? I mean, that’s not the kinda thing you think about with a leather jacket But it could be that jacket had really nice buttons, you’d buy it And Indian factories, Indian companies right now, they’re not part of that discussion They’re still trying to chase the market They don’t have access to the market They have access to producers that work in the market, but they don’t have the market themselves That’s where they are right now I mentioned gender earlier Okay, so historically, women didn’t really
participate in public life And in the leather industry, what they would do is what you would find a lot here in the United States as well, is that the man would work at the factory, he’d get a piece work and take it home, and the family would help, right? And so you had women participating in that way, that they would work at home, helping the husband or the father produce whatever he need to do to make a living In this new industry, in this sort of growing industry, as Hindus have been coming into it, you’ll also find Muslim women, women entering into the industry Just like there are demands here for two parents to work, you’re finding the same demands in India And so women…See here, we kinda argue about 78 cents on the dollar– women being underpaid There, there’s no denying it They know women are a cheap source of labor They’re cheaper than men, right? And it’s common…it’s almost like, “well, they got nothing else better to do “They might as well go and work a little bit and make some money.” Even if it’s this much So there are a lot of women who there And the factory owners told me, they’ll put a TV in the room to show the soap operas, and that’ll get them to work And they’ll sew while they’re watching the soap operas, or they’ll weave while they’re watching the soap operas The problem, of course, with that, is you have absenteeism that you can’t control, like I mentioned earlier But then, here’s the thing that I didn’t get to study but became apparent from other studies I’ve read, and then, just in some of the discussions You have Muslim women who, historically There’s something called purdah, where you stay home, and you only interact with your family, right? Now you have these women going to work And not only are they interacting with people outside their family, but they’re interacting with men, and people who aren’t even of their religion Now, that was just something I came in contact with I don’t know what the long-term impact of that will be But it is something that’s interesting, that in terms of how it impacts the Muslim family structure, that you have women who historically didn’t have any contact with anybody outside the family, now interacting with men, and women, that are not in the family, and of a different religion As a response to that, some factories have hired buses to pick up women, and women only, to take them to work To somehow show that “We are a good company that won’t let your daughter just fraternize with anyone on the bus.” There’ll be other women and other women only Right? I mean, these are some of the things that they have to do to, kind of demonstrate, “Yes, yes, yes, we’ll kinda keep an eye on things.” Of course at the factory, there’s no policing. It’s work As long as you’re getting your work done, everyone goes about their business But the buses are one way to deal with this blowback, cultural blowback I think that’s it, man That’s a lot, that’s a lot I say that’s it, because I think that’s a good point I said a lot of stuff, right? And I was looking at y’all write stuff down I thought, let’s ask some questions Because I got more stuff to tell you Just, you know Is that okay, can we do that? – Fine – Yeah, yeah, yeah, ’cause we got a small enough group No questions? (member of audience speaks faintly) – So I mean So…initiatives, no, right? I mean, initiatives, to me mean like a government kinda sponsored…right? Yeah But like everything else, one of the things that historically that has been a challenge in Indian society is…well, okay, let me restate that The role of the middleman is huge in India, right?
And technology’s impacted that greatly It used to be that a farmer would have to rely on somebody who could find out what the price of the market was, and then come back and tell the farmer, “This is how much we’ll pay for your crop.” Right? Now, that guy probably lied all the time and pocketed, like, a difference With cell phones, we can just call the market up, say, “What are you guys gonna pay? And then we just get the crops to them So what you find is because of these family dynamics involving in all businesses and all industries, trust is a big deal I mean, trust is huge, and actually, trust is huge in our country We just don’t think about it that way But given the sort of personal relationships that evolved there…Like, gold is a real big product, people buy gold or jewelry, that kinda stuff It’s an investment as well as ornamental Historically, whoever you buy gold from, you’ll buy gold for the rest of your life And one of the things that’s really made that, that’s put a real big crimp on it, one of these big Indian firms decided that they will allow you to bring your gold in and get it tested to see if it’s, like, the carat that you got sold And if it’s not, they’ll, like, refund the difference and give you the real stuff And so all these people are getting mad because they’re finding out that their old gold dealer had been cheating them all these years, giving them, like, substandard quality So to your question–that happens, but not in any determined, concerted way In part, because the best you can really do with a family member that might go and study abroad in the UK is have access to people who will buy your product, right? And actually, that’s not a bad thing In fact, one of the managers told me, he said, if you ever go to a convention, and you come in contact with shoe purchasers, like from Macy’s or Nordstrom, please give them my name ‘Cause he’s a middleman And I said, “Yeah, I don’t have a problem with that.” He said that he’ll pay me And I said, “You know, whatever.” He goes, “Look, if you’re my brother, “you’ll do that once “But you’ll never do it again.” Right “But if I pay you, you might do it again.” But he doesn’t have access to markets That’s what they really want, is access to markets And that’s what you’re talking about, is having access to markets Because the endeavor you’re talking about is about branding That’s the thing. Like, I mean, we could get really nerdy about this and go through the entire commodity chain Branding is what we all pay for We actually don’t pay for the product, we pay for a brand, right? And an Indian brand doesn’t have the sexiness as an Italian brand when it comes to leather. Not yet But they’re trying to mitigate some of that by having access to determine like what colors come in, so that they can produce it themselves And in fact, if they can show the buyers the colors that they can produce, and the buyers like it, then they’re, like, months ahead of the game So they can get stuff done quicker, cheaper, and just plan better They’re driving the train at that point as opposed to, like, being dragged along So there’s multiple places where you can see, kinda like, an opportunity to make money But what you’re describing is really, the limits are just finding the market (member of audience speaks faintly) – Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (member of audience speaks faintly) – And I don’t mean to, like, to make you question them, but I guarantee you, like, no matter how low you get that price, if somebody accepts it, they’re making money on it, right? – [Member of Audience] Yeah – And they’re always gonna tell you, “Oh, no, no, it costs way more than you think.” And and if you don’t know better, you’ll pay So that’s one of the things I mean, information, trust, and markets That’s a big part of what’s going on here, that some of it is being impacted by some of these global processes But when we talk about culture, and Indian culture, that part is still huge And for people from America who want to do business in India, if we’re not attentive to that, we’re gonna get taken to the cleaners So you really have to know where the source is coming What are the limitations, who you can get stuff from Develop a relationship I mean, that’s true in a lot of places But I tell you in India, it’s all…Like, you can have all kinds of agreements, but if you don’t have a relationship, not gonna happen
Yeah, but that’s certainly a place to get here (woman laughs) I saw Chris Rock’s documentary What else? That was a good question (member of audience speaks faintly) – The outsider? – Yeah, the outsider – Well, it depends on the industry, all right? But let me just talk about leather real quick One of the things that I talked about foreign direct investments earlier So let’s say you wanna throw some money into a business here You got a friend who owns a restaurant They’re like, “Hey look, if you give me $10,000,” , “you get a certain percentage “of the receipts every year.” And you go, “Okay, let me see your books.” Right? So you look at their books, and you see what they’re spending, what kinda money they’re making You look at their patterns and trends You go, “Yeah, you seem like you’re doing pretty good “You’re solid for the last five years “You’ve got some projections Here’s my money.” In India, there’s a lot of dark money, right? People hide their money, people don’t pay taxes, people lie The government is not getting the amount of taxes they should be getting So 10 years ago, when I was there actually, they had just introduced something called “Value Added Tax,” “VAT,” that a lot of countries have, where every step of the way that there is production, there’s a tax that’s given right then, and there and paid, right? So that when it comes to you, the consumer, you will pay, like, the tax on the production of the food, or the carpet that you bought People weren’t paying taxes until the very end And so, the government was losing out on this because people were undervaluing stuff They weren’t keeping books And the leather industry was one of those places like that And in fact, the manager was talking to me about how that’s one of the problems they faced in getting foreign direct investment, is that they don’t have clean books Now, the bigger companies that might own multiple places…Like so, like, I interviewed Tata is a real big firm in India, that they’re, like, multinational kinda big And they owned a manufacturing plant Their books are clean, because it has to be, right? Because they’re a bigger operator But the mom-and-pop guy That’s where the trust part comes in You have to take their word for it So it all depends on the industry And that’s why family, I think, do business with family Because if you cheat family, there are real consequences to that If I cheat you, not as much Go ahead and sue me, see what you get. Right? But if I cheat family, there are real consequences to that So it depends on the industry It depends on how big it is and what you wanna do So that’s why when you go work with…Let’s say, you’re a T-shirt fact…you wanna sell T-shirts, and you wanna source the T-shirts in India Well, really, that relationship isn’t about investing in the company, that’s just doing business with the company So there’s opportunities like that, right? To do business with a manufacturer, and you tell them what you’re gonna pay for each product You get that price, you’re okay with it, ’cause it meets your profit margins, it meets their profit margins, we do business But to actually invest in that textile company, you’d have to get their books And that’s where the problems begin But that’s changing I mean, it has to If they wanna court business or investment Which is something they couldn’t do before, because the government wanted to limit the amount of money that controlled the Indian economy, right? They wanted control over the economy They didn’t want foreigners controlling what the say was I mean, we saw that with Puerto Rico, where all these pharmaceuticals went to Puerto Rico, and they opened manufacturing plants, and people were making money, and then laws changed, and they all left And all these people are unemployed, right? India doesn’t want that So I don’t know if I answered the question or not, but we could try, we try it again You can ask me again
(member of audience speaks faintly) – Yeah, yeah Yeah no, actually, I mean, so that’s a good question So leather has always had a place right? Animals always die, something to do with it I mean, that’s a fact of life Animals will die And so traditionally, you had somebody coming around collecting carcasses, and skins, and what to do with that, right? So there’s a point where people made leather buckets for wells– to put the leather in, the bucket in– and pull water up Chappals, shoes, sandals There’s always a funk…I mean, people wear shoes That’s okay. But working with, sort of, that disgusting, dead, rotting carcass, that’s where the stigma comes in But here’s the nuance with that So I mentioned that there are people who are agricultural workers, that are gonna be working in the industry Now, they might be looked down upon because they work with leather But the people…Let’s say you are Chamar, who historically are supposed to work with leather, but you don’t want to, you still have the stigma, and in some ways worse than the guy who’s the agricultural worker, because it’s, sort of, infused in your caste identity And I can’t get better about explaining that, because one of the things I came to understand is that I don’t know the cultural markers for caste the away Indians do And the best analogy I can give you is, none of us in here are judgmental, right? But, I’m just saying, there might be a time where we see someone wearing a knockoff something, and in our head we go, “Ah, that’s a knockoff.” And we make a value judgment They’re trying to be something they’re not Those nails are fake, that hair is fake, right? That’s not real leather That’s not a real…whatever We make…we look at certain markers to know things about people “Oh, look at her hair That’s that cheap coloring.” Okay? That’s an inappropriate whatever We know those little things to make sense of what we wanna judge people in terms of their class, their station in life Caste is like that And it comes down to words people use, their mannerisms, their eye contact I’m not skilled enough to make those determinations I’ve just determined, I mean, over the years, because I’ll look at someone and think “Ah, no, no, no.” Skin color, we wanna use that in this country The way people dress–no It’s things like the way you walk The words you use, right? Because Hindi is a very hierarchical language So instead of saying bucket, you say pail That might give away your caste Just words, the way you use it, and I just…it’s way too complex for me to figure out So yeah, the stigma is attached to the work, but I think more to the caste as well Which is why you can change your religion in India, but not your caste I had a quick story where someone told me “Oh, that’s such and such caste church.” And I thought, “Wait, what, they’re Christian? “They have a caste?” He’s like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, “Only those certain caste people go to that church.” But that’s a Hindu thing And they just looked at me like I was crazy “And your point?” You can change your religion but not your caste And that’s why, like, even though, like, caste has been irrelevant in my family for decades, I know my caste. (chuckles) I know it when I go to India, that’s for sure It’s a powerful construct, so yeah Well, yeah (member of audience speaks faintly) – Yeah, yeah, no, no. I mean, I’m thinking about it
The answer is yes I mean, look. So So let’s think about race for a second Race as a construct has, I mean What we think of as race is constantly evolving, right? We don’t know it, but it is The things that code for race, like a hoodie, like the word thug, right? We don’t use certain slurs anymore But if we say thug, that means something The code changes And I think caste is similar in that it’s a billion point 2 people So you’re gonna be, sort of, exceptions within exceptions But some things will become harder I would imagine for people to recognize, and it might depend on where you are in India ‘Cause I do wanna say this for everyone We talk about India, but one thing I want us to step back and understand is, India is a lot like Europe, right? We wouldn’t pretend to compare We wouldn’t say that the Portuguese speak French poorly, because they don’t speak French, they speak Portuguese It’s a different country, right? But in India, we think of it as one, sort of, monolithic place And from here to the next building can be completely different in many ways, right? So there’s that. There’s that kind of diversity within the country linguistically, food, music, literary, histories, and certainly caste practices can be different depending on your income I mean, income…There are wealthy, what we called “Dalits,” untouchables There are wealthy ones But it doesn’t mean that they get invited to dinner at your house And there are people who would be very loving and generous with them, and there are people who want nothing to do with them So I mean, yes, it’s changing, and it’ll but certainly patterns are there, right? And I think at some point, India will have to grapple with this idea of reservations Because it might become meaningless in light of other groups suffering disproportionately, like Muslims And that’s a real thing I mean, Muslims do face discrimination still I mean, Shah Rukh Khan, the most popular Indian actor in the world notwithstanding, they face discrimination I don’t know if that answered the question or not but (member of audience speaks faintly) – So yeah, so…so globalization really In academic circles, there’s an implicit understanding that it’s a change for places that are not in the West, right? Like non-European, non-North American And the argument that it’s part of the modernization-slash-development So you were talking about your interest in sustainable development, okay? Sustainable development has at its root, an idea that things should improve, okay? But many times that improvement comes from a very Western construct: what is better? And, I mean, that’s why you find resistance to development and resistance to Westernization, and resistance to globalization That’s why the French will dump manure in front of McDonald’s, because they don’t want, like, American culture polluting their culture And that’s why in certain countries, women’s rights are seen as, sort of, Western rights, not human rights It’s a way to demonize politically some of the ideas of equality, right? And so, globalization…When I first came to this idea, started looking at impact of globalization, it was very much in a Zapatista Movement in Mexico, where globalizing forces were screwing over, like, the local indigenous people Now, I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen There’s certainly pain with rapid change And certainly, if you’re at the lower end of the social-economic ladder, your ability to, sort of, withstand the crush of it is less than if you’re at the upper ends And certainly, you might benefit a little bit, but not a lot compared to everybody else at the top, okay? But the alternative to that is to think somehow that people should stay in a museum and be, like, exhibits, right?
Like, why shouldn’t I be Native American and drive a pickup truck? Will I be doomed forever to live in a teepee and look at the stars at night? I mean, like, with that thinking like, you shouldn’t have air conditioning if I have air conditioning, because we wanna keep you the way you were, in your pristine condition But so, there’s these arrows and so, so the discussion has evolved and become a little bit more nuanced in looking at hybridization, the arrow going the other way, how we’re impacted by globalization Like, ’cause we don’t even recognize that as Americans, we’re impacted negatively by globalization We see it as the world just basically having McDonald’s for us, and making things convenient for us, or Starbucks. Oh, thank God, there’s Starbucks, right? At least I know what that is Although, I will tell you it’s pretty cool to go to H.E.B. and see, like, they sell fresh sushi. I mean, that Hey, that’s pretty crazy Growing up in this country, when I moved here at age 10, that’s a completely different world than it is now, in terms of the products and foods you can get, the ingredients you can get to cook food It’s pretty cool, but certainly we’ve lost jobs We’ve had to evolve, we’ve had to change And we’re not even talking yet about this idea that globalization fundamentally, is a way to, that Well, from a conflict perspective in sociology, we’d say it supports those that are in power It’s a system that continuously facilitates wealth accumulation at the top And we’re certainly seeing that globally in terms of just economic numbers, right? Oh, yeah, that’s what I was, that’s what I was trying to say there We assume that the globalization only happens one way, which is top down But it could be that there is this One thing I didn’t mention to that point– So one of my assumptions I think I mentioned was that I thought, “Oh, India was gonna “start killing all these cows to make leather.” ‘Cause they have cows, right? Well, to my great disappointment, they weren’t “Whoa, I was wrong!” Well, yes or no What I found out was, to just sidestep that issue, they just started sourcing skins from the Middle East The Middle East, they have no prohibition against eating cows, they love cows, they eat beef But they got all these skins lying around What to do with them? Sell them to India Then you just sourced the cow skins from the Middle East, and made their shoes, or jackets, or whatever So that was one way that India could still participate in this global process, but do it in their way, right?” Now, it could be at some point it becomes too expensive to do that, and they may have to, like, confront, like, “What to do?” But in the meantime, they found a way around it Now, there’s consequences to that It could be that the money that they’re spending on that, they don’t spend on labor, or in educating their labor pool, or ‘Cause literally today, right before I came out, I read a passage, where this one owner was saying that, he felt like he could do a better job of helping his employees with their health And as he said it, “But what to do?” Right? Like, “Too big a problem for me, ’cause there’s just too many other things “I have to help them with, other than just their health.” And he’s right I mean, we’re talking massive poverty in many cases, so (member of audience speaks faintly) – You mean like the reservations and stuff? None. I mean…Okay, so India has, let’s say 1.2 billion people Roughly 750 million are Hindus And when we get, when we start getting into Hindu versus non-Hindu, Hinduism is a very sort of–“flexible” religion in terms of what you can be to be considered a Hindu But let’s say there’s 750 million 250 million are Muslim, right? And then the rest of them are Buddhist, or Christian, or something else It’s a large minority, but it’s still a minority, and one that has, at least in the rhetoric, a contentious relationship One that’s not empowered in any way, structurally So, short of rioting, which doesn’t get anybody anywhere, they don’t get anywhere I think that’s one of the reasons that you find this massive poverty in that group
because, they don’t have the structural support that lower-caste Hindus have to get into government To even be bribed If you wanna say the government’s corrupt, at least they’re getting into government to get bribed if you’re Hindu and poor Right? Or lower caste Muslims don’t even get that So, and then because of their numbers, you can’t agitate too much, because your neighbors, they might like you, but it takes (snaps fingers) that, for everybody to kinda get on each other And so I think that’s why the leather industry is also another fascinating place because, Hindus have started coming into the industry, because there’s money to be made But it’s still a place that’s dominated by Muslim businessmen, and in fact, when I was there, I was told…There’s this quasi-governmental organization that deals with supporting it’s almost like a Chamber of Commerce for leather nationally, internationally And he said, “Just look at the people “who have been the chair of that. It’s all Muslim.” And I did, I went and looked, and it was like, it was all Muslim And then since then I’ve looked, and it’s all Muslim It’s all…I mean, at least they’re Muslim names And so that is one place that, that at least as a community, they’ve had some relative power and success But politically? Yeah It’s like being Native American in this country and agitating No one listens, right? And I don’t say that to be flippant, but just It’s they just lack the power Any questions? Come on, I know y’all have good questions (member of audience speaks faintly) – Tanneries So, you know, and I’m not a psychologist but I’ve heard the term “cognitive dissonance” bandied around a bit I mean, I guess for many of us, we can have…we’re capable of having ambivalent feelings about things, right? So there may be things we find personally distasteful, but because it’s part of our job, we’ll do it And that kind of helps us rationalize, “Well, I’m not really in favor of this, “but it’s my job to do it, “and I wanna be professional “So I’m gonna do my job.” I mean, I think, first, there’s a functional place for it, just historically And so, I mean, now, we’re just having speculation So it could be the kind of thing where people–out of sight, out of mind ’cause that’s the other thing The tanneries had a period of time in the ’80’s, where they were almost all virtually shut down for polluting the local areas because of these chemicals And they had to create water effluent treatment plants and not pollute rivers, and not dump their wastewater just on the land somewhere And that was actually from outside forces coming in and saying, “Hey, what are you guys doing?” And that’s actually been a good thing for India because unlike China, whose growth has been sort of unregulated, and they’re driving that country into the ground, just from a pollution standpoint, India has had these regulations to deal with, and they’ve had to accommodate But I think, still, the industry is so, sort of, centered on a certain segment of the population But as long as it stays there, right? People don’t care And I’ll give you a story that might kinda touch on that So one of my strategic respondents, a middleman, he was telling me how of all his friends he grew up with, some of them are doctors or lawyers, they come to him for money because he’s in the shoe industry, and he makes good money And he goes, “They still call him the cobbler.” Like a shorty, kinda, like to make fun of him He’s the cobbler, and they’re coming to him for money, right? It still has that kind of stigma And he’s actually a Bengali from Calcutta, which I was in the South of India, and that has a different historical their leather industry has a different historical past But I think there’s a real compartmentalizing,
where it’s like look, poor people are doing it that are supposed to do it The cow slaughter part, that’s the part that’s still kinda…It’s not against the law, but it happens, right? And that’s why I told you about the cow-cutting I went to, was in the middle of the night And I asked them, “So why two o’clock in the morning?” And they said, “Well, it’s just so that “we have fewer people walking by, “who might get upset.” And I gotta tell you, like, if I ever Like, if I could have found alcohol that morning, I would have afterwards, ’cause that was crazy Just sit and watch this happened, and it was quiet, and kinda creepy, and dark And the guy who did the actual slaughter, I’m pretty sure he was drinking And I was talking to a professor afterwards when I got back that morning He was saying that that makes sense, because it was probably personally distasteful to him, but much like a…He told me a story about a policeman, who had to observe autopsies as part of his function as a policeman, and he was a teetotaler, but would get drunk before he had to observe these autopsies And so I thought of this guy the same way, who probably had to get drunk to do what he had to do No, no (member of audience speaks faintly) – Yeah, and so in that regard, it’s very diffused And one of the things that…So okay, so another quick, like, story So you’ve got these folks who don’t wanna work as Chamars anymore, right? They don’t wanna be in that leather stuff And because the government has hired firms to be able to go around and collect skins, local villages are left without people to just pick up the occasional dead animal and deal with it And so that’s where I told you there was pressure for individuals to kinda come back to this work Because…Imagine that if Austin there’s no animal control that comes by and takes up, like, animals run over People kinda get upset if there are all these animals dead everywhere But someone actually has to do that And even though, like, there’s now a firm that maybe goes around collecting skins that people collect, there’s no one around to do the actual dirty work of getting the dead animal out of the jurisdiction And so that kind of stuff And India is a nation of villages And as much as urbanization is occurring, there’s still all these villages where there’s no infrastructure to really do services, except for caste The caste is where…That’s why it’s so hard to just, kinda, get rid of that, like we’re talking about In an urban area, maybe But even in an urban area, much like we have segregation here at the fixed race, in an urban area, you’re gonna live with people in your caste, which will fix your caste identity Because at the end of the day, they don’t take in strangers They take in people like them, right? And so there’s gonna be this caste in that area, this caste in that area. That’s why the church has caste, is because, that’s how it works I mean there’s Gandhian, and there’s pockets of people that are multi- or interfaith, that kinda stuff And there’s a real movement for that But it’s still 1.2 billion people, and the vast majority are like, “No.” Like, “I want people like me around me.” I probably can give you a better answer, ’cause I think the short answer is that it’s individualistic but also, I think that’s probably what we’re trying to figure out, is how is that possible? And from my perspective, maybe I wasn’t trying to answer that so much, but I was trying to figure out, how the factory workers and owners, negotiating these tensions, right? Between this real, kinda, revulsion about the industry, and then a support for it, and to meet global capital demands from a consumer and…but then still kinda function with all these impediments And we’re not even talking about things like not having good roads, or constant energy needs to just function ‘Cause all that stuff comes into play, too, in terms of having access to all those chemicals that I talked about, or…Power cuts happen every day in India And the owners, when I asked the question, I go, “Do you have problems with power?” They go, “No, I don’t have a problem with power.” And so that’s interesting, because where I live, the power goes two hours every day And they go, “Oh, yeah, yeah, that happens “But everybody has a generator “So we just deal with that.”
They don’t even see it as a problem anymore, right? Water in Chennai, where I lived They had droughts so they were running out of water Everyone trucks water in now That’s a part of business So you have to kinda dig to find out, like, all they’re taken for granted “Oh yeah, yeah, we just deal with that.” This is life, right? And so I don’t know if that’s part of it, that people just kinda…Leather exists, and we’re just gonna cope with it as long as it’s there But that’s the fascinating part for me, was seeing how do we negotiate these tensions? I’m sorry, you had a question (member of audience speaks faintly) – Everybody’s like whatever, it’s too hard – Yeah – Yeah – It’s that, so – So the answer is yes, right? And I mean, I think that’s what…So, okay Allow me just one last nerd moment So there’s this guy called Wallerstein, who has this thing called World Systems Theory And in it the unit of analysis is kinda the world And it’s an economics, kind of a Marxist economic system where there are core countries, periphery countries, semi-periphery countries The core countries are like the US and Europe And they take stuff from the periphery countries like Brazil at the time and Africa Raw materials, they take raw materials, and then, they make, like, great stuff and sell it back at exorbitant prices to those poor countries, right? So for him, the world operated in terms of these countries and economic zones India at one point was probably a core, a semi, a periphery country, on the outside They just had raw materials: cotton, gems, leather, okay?” I think part of where I would put India now is that they’re semi-periphery, in that they have both They’re operating in both worlds in many ways And I think that from a science, from a sociological perspective, that’s what’s so fascinating about India, is that you can go to India, and see, like, a BMW at a traffic light, and see a camel across the street at the same traffic light And I mean, not to like to orientalize it, and essentialize it as just you know, but– (member of audience speaks faintly) – Although that’s for leisure. In India, that’s not for leisure – Oh, okay – Right, that’s legit Like somebody is using that camel to do something – Oh okay – Right? So in India, you definitely have, like, the sort of old-school, it’s tried and true method, okay? And then you have this sort of, this nod to “We want to be more modern.” “More modern.” And I put that in quotes, because what is modern? I mean we’re modern and traditional I always tell the story about how the daughter had her mom over for Thanksgiving, and was putting the turkey into the oven And she cut the wings off, and put it in The mom’s like, “Why did you do that?” She goes, “‘Cause that’s the way you did it.” Right? That’s tradition She goes, “Yeah, I did it that way “because my oven was small “The turkey wouldn’t fit.” Okay? So we’re traditional and modern at the same time And, but we see India as a sort of, like, foreign crazy place but it’s 1.2 billion people So there’s both I mean, certainly, I know this sounds silly, right? But it kinda illustrates There used to be a time where if a movie got released here, it would be months before it got released in India Or a car got released here by Ford or Chevy, months That stuff happens immediately now, right? In fact, there are movies that they show in Austin, Indian movies, that are being released at the same time in India, right? For people here who hope to see it
So that’s the kind of, like, instantaneous “modern” we can have but again, we do have, My parents live in Corpus, and I take the back roads There are farm-to-market roads that tractors still drive on Because that’s what farmers use, right? The difference there is, it could be a cow, or a camel, or an elephant Like, literally an elephant And those worlds are side by side And they’re gonna be problems with those worlds And it’s not a matter of someone saying who’s right or who’s wrong, it’s a matter of figuring out how to have those worlds coexist And I think with this industry, it’s an ever-evolving process And because the tradition is so stark, it makes it fascinating to investigate, right? Because you’re like, “Whoa!” Like, you can really see how things are changing Here it’s invisible to us We just deal with it, which is what they do They just deal with it But definitely they have modern “attempts.” And certainly what…One of the things I did, and this is the last thing I’ll say about that is that I looked at industry journals And in sociology, we have this term of “presentation itself,” where you talk about how you present yourself to others, that the way you want them to see you, right? So if you go out on a business interview, you have a jacket, and you have nice clothes, or whatever Well, the industry journals are something I talked about in how they present themselves to, like, a global audience And it’s very modern They have models, like, wearing leather clothes Women…very sexy, which is something you don’t see like every day, like on the streets, women dressed like that They have pictures of factories that are very clean and everyone’s, like, in a uniform And I was like, “Well, I didn’t see that.” And I’m not saying those places don’t exist, but it’s not the norm But it’s this sort of, like, Facebook attempt to say, this is what we can be and aspire to I mean, at the end of the day, they get the job done And that’s really what you want But for some people, that presentation is very important, yeah – [Audience Member Speaking] So, and everybody I talked to, the answer is no And in fact, for some of them, they don’t want their kids in the industry Just because this is the reality of the world, right? IT…I mean, this is a workforce issue we have here IT makes so much money that they’re like, “Oh, let’s study computers “You can make way more money.” And actually because they make a good living, they can afford to send their children to school and to study in other areas that aren’t so dirty and polluting I mean, I didn’t really get around to asking them what they were gonna do with their company if their children didn’t inherit it But likely they would just, they would inherit it They just wouldn’t work in the industry They’d have somebody else I mean, at that point, we might have professionalization, where people ran a company for a family ‘Cause it’s not like that idea is devoid in here, right? We have IT firms, we have telecommunication firms, we have big million, billion dollar firms in India And they hire MBAs and really educated people, who have lived abroad, who have studied abroad, but then, there’re still, like, the rank and file stories where it’s customer service that you need Yeah, I don’t think you’d find a woman And in fact, there was a study that had talked about that And it is primarily male Because the woman’s role is at that point to get married And if she is educated, leather is not exactly It’s like construction, right? You’re gonna have your daughter be a doctor, or a teacher, but not a leather producer But other people should have to deal with on a day-to-day basis Anything else? (member of audience speaks faintly) – Are suspended? (member of audience speaks faintly) – So everything’s relative, right?
So the worker that Ford’s gonna hire is gonna come from a higher echelon of society in India first, right? Because you’re operating machinery So you have to have…And I don’t wanna get like But this is all cognitive stuff, where if you don’t eat well, you can’t learn, you can’t…that kinda stuff, right? So that’s one thing that is When we talk about stratification in sociology, gosh, the layers of stratification are just mind-numbing And so the people who are gonna work for Ford in the assembly plant have to have had a certain kind of education and nutrition growing up, so that they are reliable, they’re good workers, they’re trainable They can adapt to new technologies, et cetera Those folks are still not gonna make anywhere where our auto workers make, right? It’s like a Mexican engineer versus a US engineer Not gonna make as much money The zone is important because if Ford decides to close up shop tomorrow, they don’t have to worry about, like, severance pay or anything like that Because they literally, like I told you, in India they can’t file bankruptcy, and they have to keep paying those workers No matter how little money they’re making, that’s part of the law And literally, factory owners have abandoned plants just like, “I’m done, I can’t do this anymore “I don’t have any money.” They will just walk away That’s how you deal with it And Ford doesn’t wanna have to do that (member of audience speaks faintly) – If they were outside the economic zone If they just built a plant, like in San Antonio kinda thing, right? Ford would have to follow our Texas laws, whatever kinda things we have here But if they’re inside the special economic zone, they don’t have to do that And they get the benefit of having access to our cheaper labor pool at that higher end, without having to pay or deal with the consequences of…Like, if I wanna fire you, I can fire you Like, imagine, like, Wisconsin as a union state, right? You can’t just fire people But Texas…deciding we wanna have a plant in Wisconsin Bbut in here, we wanna have the right to hire kinda thing Like, we wanna pretend this little area is Texas, so we can fire you at any moment, for any good reason, bad reason, or no reason That’s what those zones are And they’re making a lot of cars I looked quickly at the highest-earning industries, and I think auto industry was fourth in India, which they really weren’t on the map 20 years ago But now, they’re making cars Pretty much, yeah (member of audience speaks faintly) – So think about this, right? Like, Indian laws have been historically protective of workers, okay? (member of audience speaks faintly) – No, no, no, it’s not even that They have like…Pretend like there’s an invisible, like, force field You can’t see it Inside that force field, India doesn’t exist People can come in from India, but inside that force field, like, you’re on Mars now Indian laws don’t exist there That’s what that is And then, they get the benefit of like people getting hired, and they might get some kind of, like, monies from Ford or that kinda stuff Maybe they get access to…Ford gets access to India to sell cars at a cheaper rate or something (member of audience speaks faintly) – Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah But ultimately it benefits business, righ? This is a way…This is a different project, but this circumvents like, Indian the Indian legal system at…to privileged business That’s what economic liberalization is about, right? In 2009, when the recession hit or 2008, we all, like, felt it here, and India didn’t get affected as much And I remember, I was at UT, and an Indian professor was there, I was talking to And he said, people criticized India for being overly regulated Well, guess what, that over-regulation protected us from this I mean, that’s one of the criticisms we had is that we weren’t regulating our banks, we just let them go crazy Do whatever you wanna do, right? And it went to hell But there, they have this tight control Now, the flip side to the tight control is that business doesn’t thrive They can’t expand and contract like they want, because they don’t take into account the worker It’s their bottom line, right? So these special economic zones allows Ford to come in and not have to worry about that We wanna not hire 50 people next month, we don’t have to hire 50 people next month And then, maybe Ford will give them, like, some severance or whatever,
because it’s a pittance But they don’t face any legal ramifications about someone striking, or picketing, or whatever The only consequence Ford has is if it becomes so intolerable that people complain to the Government of India that this relationship is no longer functional for us, and now, the government has to do something Just like here, right? And nothing happens Shouldn’t say that, but you know (member of audience speaks faintly) – I know IT was up there, and banking, and steel, I think Those are always up, I mean Look, I mean, there’s really, really rich people in India Just really, really rich And to be middle class in India, like…Gosh, I’d love to be middle class in India But with a 1.2 billion people, there’s some real abject poverty And I think in many ways, what we found with global economic practices, we’ve seen this in Latin America, and we’re seeing it here in India, is that it can exacerbate some of those problems, where poor people get even poorer, and the social safety nets that were supposed to be in place to help them are no longer there So there’s certainly a downside to this But I’ve tried not to approach it from that perspective, because to do that is to sort of, like, advocate for a sort of, status quo, that might still not be very beneficial to people ‘Cause you wanna keep things as pristine as it once was And that’s a real hard thing, is to try to respect, like, people’s culture and still advocate for change, so But these processes don’t take that into account – [Audience Member Speaking] Well, I mean, yes and no, right? I mean, India has its pressures for sure And its population being as big as you mentioned, that’s one of them I mean, while they’re, and that’s a thing that we could talk forever, and I know, we wanna end, right? So I’ll say this, and then, we’ll end But India, India has real problems with the population density that it has, and in that, things like a massive epidemic could occur I mean, with the trucking routes, one of the things that people have been concerned for for years has been the spread of HIV Because as truckers go through their routes, and they sleep with prostitutes, and have unprotected sex, it’s not with…outside the realm of consciousness that a massive AIDS epidemic could occur with that sort of free-moving society Conversely though, right? When we start thinking about things like roads and stuff like that, to facilitate business, that’s a particular way of looking at culture And if you look…if you’re Gandhi, you don’t care about that stuff, because everything should be local, and be about people So we’re looking at a fundamental view, and that’s why, when I talk about how people were thinking, to me, that was what was fascinating is how people’s thinking were changing with globalization, not things like infrastructure, all that That’s how we can measure it That’s to me was what was fascinating with the study, talking to people, and hearing how they wrestled with some of these issues Because ultimately, they’re gonna pick a side and go individually on that direction And then, if enough people do that, then we’re gonna start seeing patterns, structurally All right, so look, I took y’all to 7:15 I thought y’all had fantastic questions Again, William, thank you for the opportunity – [William] Thank you, Rennison – And everybody was fantastic So thank you (audience applauds) Great questions