Indranil Chakraborty is a Concordia Horizon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. His research interests are in the areas of media, technology and labour. He has a PhD in Information and Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario. His monograph ‘Invisible Labour: Support Service Workers in India’s Information Technology Industry’ was published in 2021 (Routledge). His current research is looking at the experience of laid-off manufacturing workers retraining at an Ontario College. As a Horizon postdoc in the SSHRC Partnership Project, Deindustrialization & the Politics of Our Time, he will study the lived experiences of the laid-off Sears Canada workers and their retired colleagues across class, gender, community, family and ethnicity. The research explores the synchronous and asynchronous voices of the labouring population “left behind” in the digital work environment.
He has also worked for over a decade as a journalist with prominent South Asian news publications such as The Indian Express and The Financial Express.
Dr. Chakraborty’s postdoctoral research will examine how deindustrialization (e.g., closures of retail stores like Sears) and reindustrialization (Amazon retail fulfilment centres) in North America and Europe are changing the labouring population’s everyday life experiences. I plan to study the crisis into which displaced workers and retirees of the retail giant Sears, Canada, were plunged when Sears filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2017. As a result, 17,000 Sears workers would not receive their severance pay. Also, 18,000 retirees found that their pension plan was underfunded by approximately $260 million, with an additional $421 million shortfall for health benefits. The research aims to capture the everyday lived experience of these laid-off workers and their retired colleagues across class, gender, community, family and ethnicity. The study will record the narratives of their survival stories and examine how they negotiate their lives through economic sufferings, family demands, neighbours’ scorn, failed job searches, sense of inadequacy, physical inability to work, and embarrassment at relying upon community help. The contradictions between productive force and production relations are evident, as new technologies (artificial intelligence and e-commerce) revolutionize productivity at the cost of the retail employees, who end up in low-wage warehouse jobs. Behind this decomposition and re-composition of the workforce in the newly created area of production lie individual and collective narratives of retail workers—their voices in the time of acute social disturbances.