The Archive of Loss

Lively Ruination in Mill Land Mumbai

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 49 illustrations Published: April 2019

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Sociology > Urban Studies

Mumbai's textile industry is commonly but incorrectly understood to be an extinct relic of the past. In The Archive of Loss Maura Finkelstein examines what it means for textile mill workers—who are assumed not to exist—to live and work during a period of deindustrialization. Finkelstein shows how mills are ethnographic archives of the city where documents, artifacts, and stories exist in the buildings and in the bodies of workers. Workers' pain, illnesses, injuries, and exhaustion narrate industrial decline; the ways in which they live in tenements exist outside and resist the values expounded by modernity; and the rumors and untruths they share about textile worker strikes and a mill fire help them make sense of the industry's survival. In outlining this archive's contents, Finkelstein shows how mills, which she conceptualizes as lively ruins, become a lens through which to challenge, reimagine, and alter ways of thinking about the past, present, and future in Mumbai and beyond.


"Finkelstein’s work is very refreshing. . . . The data involved is rich, and the theoretical framings and arguments very persuasive." — Sinead D'Silva, LSE Review of Books

"Tackling the question of power, of the structure of domination in post-colony, and of the lives lived among the imperial debris makes The Archive of Loss an engaging reading for those willing to advance the project started by Maura Finkelstein and to approach ethnographically both the official records and the alternative archives. . . . The book offers a detailed description of decay and ruination as a prolonged process that follows its own logic and unfolds according to its own rules, supporting a ghostly presence of the past that refuses to die down." — Natalia Kovalyova, Anthropology Book Forum

“In each chapter-archive, Finkelstein urges the reader to reflect on how some forms of work in contemporary capitalist society are rendered meaningless in order to sustain others.... Researchers studying the history of Mumbai’s textile mills, the processes of deindustrialization, storytelling, and archiving, and affect theory will find value in engaging with this book.” — Saumya Pandey, Society for the Anthropology of Work

“A wonderful critique of deindustrialization, archives, and the afterlives of the great mills of Mumbai, this book is a timely contribution to thinking on temporality, loss, space, and affective entanglements within rapidly changing cities across South Asia. Maura Finkelstein seeks nothing less than to reveal how ideas and spaces are translated into places. This thoughtful view of a key site of Mumbai's ongoing transformations is essential reading for scholars of the city in uncertain times." — Svati P. Shah, author of Street Corner Secrets: Sex, Work, and Migration in the City of Mumbai

"In this beautifully written and rich ethnography, Maura Finkelstein demonstrates that the dynamics contributing to industrial job loss crosscut regions, countries, and cities. Her book offers highly compelling theoretical insights on memory, embodiment, and urban space and will lead to a much-needed rethinking of deindustrialization itself." — Christine J. Walley, author of Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Maura Finkelstein is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Muhlenberg College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
A Note on Intimate Geographies  xi
Introduction: The Archive of Industrial Debris  1
1. The Archive of the Mill  29
2. The Archive of the Worker  57
3. The Archive of the Chawl  85
4. The Archive of the Strike  117
5. The Archive of the Fire  149
Epilogue: The Archive of Futures Lost  181
Notes  193
References  225
Index  247
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0398-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0368-7
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