Abject Labors, Informal Markets: Revisiting the Law's (Re)production Boundary


Prabha Kotiswaran

Over the past few decades, feminist legal scholars have drawn extensively on feminist theorizing of social reproduction to argue for the increased visibility of women's care work and its protection through the law. While sympathetic to feminist efforts to redraw the ‘production boundary,' I critique in this article, feminists' own reluctance to include within this production boundary the reproductive labor of women like sex workers, dancers and surrogates. I argue instead for the recognition of reproductive labor performed for the market, as valuable, legitimate work. I then assess the implications of this redrawing of the ‘reproduction boundary' for labor law. Through an examination of three generations of Indian labor law, I suggest that labor laws geared towards the informal economy best address female reproductive laborer's demands for both recognition and redistribution but that for this, labor law itself needs to be reconceptualised, especially as the postcolonial state re-engineers labor laws in the prevalent economic climate to deliver benefits rather than workers' rights.