New book review by Saumya Pandey: Maura Finkelstein's The Archive of Loss

(02-02-2021)

In the context of Dhanraj Spinning and Weaving, Ltd., Mumbai’s oldest still-operating textile mill, the lives of workers are curiously absent from the existing archives. Dominant media narratives, material artifacts, museum exhibits, and old photographs of the Indian city’s nineteenth-century textile boom gloss over the accounts of mill workers as though they no longer exist. But Maura Finkelstein’s book, The Archive of Loss: Lively Ruination in Mill Land Mumbai, unsettles the conventional view that material evidence is the only reliable source of truth. In the book, Finkelstein asks how one can write the history of “lively ruins” (p. 31)—of liveliness, presence, and vitality within closure and ruination—from the standpoint of mill workers long thought to be dead and gone, but who in fact continue to toil, churn their yarn, and produce cotton threads. In doing so, she argues that the “unvisibility” (p. 32) of these workers’ labor is necessary for postindustrial capitalism to thrive in contemporary Mumbai. 

Read the full review at the Society for the Anthropology of Work