Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Governance and Human Security

First Advisor

Timothy Shaw

Second Advisor

Jane Parpart

Third Advisor

Susan Moir


The focus of my dissertation is the ways in which women construction workers in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, India conceptualize and experience Human Security (HS) — a largely under-studied issue. The construction industry is a significant portion of India’s, as well as the global, economy. Construction work has also been deemed by the ILO as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. To challenge and enhance the HS paradigm, critical scholars encourage attention to local context. By shining a spotlight on women construction workers who labor on sites in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, my research provides valuable insight into local context, as well as features of the IPE which impact that context.

Committed to a postcolonial feminist approach, I followed the data to create a theoretical and paradigmatic mosaic, which includes Human Security, International Political Economy, gender, agency, informality and precarity. Without this mosaic, the many nuances and complexities of the informal construction sector could not be understood. Utilizing a grounded approach, I conducted in-depth interviews and observations at bastis, nakas, and construction sites in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai for seven months before COVID-19 hit, and then several more months remotely during lockdown. I spoke to and observed female and male construction workers, NGO staff, and construction company executives. My bottom-up approach yielded themes such as: my participants’ primary conceptualization of HS is economic security, almost to the exclusion of all other forms of HS; gendered aspects of the IPE were enormous hurdles to their achievement of HS; a HS/gender/agency connection exists; even though they are highly constrained by structural impediments, my participants exercise agency in ways they see fit.

As one of the BRICS and an emerging economy with the largest portion of the world’s poor, an enormous percentage of informal sector laborers, and the world’s second largest population, what happens in India’s laboring classes is vitally important for the rest of the world. It can highlight global trends, and inspire potential remedies for the insecurities born of labor exploitation, gender discrimination and persistent poverty.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.