Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Harvard University
Cultures of Cargo: Trucking, Media, and the Logistics of Punjabi Mobility

This project will examine how Punjabi trucking is valued and devalued through the logistical enterprises in which it is embedded, and musical media in which it is portrayed. “Logistics,” in contemporary political economy, encompasses the calculative management practices that order transport and circulation through space and time. Logistical industry is now the largest and fastest-growing business sector of many countries, including India and America. Punjabis who work in trucking are, worldwide, a major demographic in this sector. Wildly popular Punjabi songs and films about trucking migration valorize diasporic truckers as moral family men, yet songs about trucking in India often disparage domestic drivers as degenerates. NGOs and government ministries concur. On opposite ends of the international supply chain, one group of truckers is celebrated, the other denigrated. Why are the trucking portions of global logistical chains publicized in musical representation? Why are only diasporic truckers positively valued? How do musical representations of logistical labor in a spatially distant America shape the lives of Indians who will never visit it? This study ethnographically examines the production of musical media about trucking in Chandigarh, and the reception and reworking of such media among different trucking-related audiences across Punjab, including truckers, the logistics companies that employ them, and aspiring emigrants across classes. It concurrently examines the logistical infrastructures that underpin this media ecology, following logistical laborers and discourses about them from site to site. This investigation will trace how logistical enterprise and those who labor in and out of it are differentially valued in public life, and how logistical forms of valuing spacetime, mobility, and personhood spread through musical media in transnational public culture.