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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master’s Thesis
Title The Power to Produce: The Impact of Limited Access to Electricity in a Nepali Textile Industry
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/45224/1/Vindegg--Master.pdf
Abstract
This thesis explores electricity as a difference that makes a difference, focusing on a textile
industry in Nepal. Based on six months of fieldwork in a peri-urban town called Lubhoo, I
use a particular kind of power saving measure as a prism to explore aspects of daily life and
work. Colloquially known as “load shedding,” the power saving measure is
institutionalized nationwide by the state electricity corporation and regulates access in
predetermined periods, distributed equally between areas. Despite the formally equal
electricity supply, there are ways of securing improved access. Electricity supply is therefore
not equal in practice, though augmented access comes at significant financial costs. I aim to
show that limited access to electricity has a significant influence, both in households and
textile factories in Lubhoo. This is especially apparent in the stop-start rhythms of factory
production and more broadly in the use of machines and newer technology. Furthermore,
the limited electricity supply compounded the (negative) influence of international labor
and sales markets, of which Lubhoo is now irrevocably a part. The industry struggled to
compete with the popularity of international work migration. This led to unstable labor
access in most factories. However, the ability to mitigate the impact of load shedding
through improved energy access did enable some owners to keep a more stable workforce.
Despite the challenges and frustrations stemming from load shedding, there are some
related effects that are not necessarily negative. Load shedding slows down industrial
production and thus capital accumulation. I suggest that this could be inhibiting the
implementation of harsh industrial labor regimes and a focus on production and profits as a
goal in itself. By tracing the impact of load shedding throughout the textile industry and
other areas of life, I will show that difference in electricity access does indeed make a
difference. However, how the latter plays out depends on factors that are not related to
electricity as such. Building on the ethnographic descriptions throughout this thesis, I
suggest that electricity may be thought of as the lifeblood of industrial modernity. This
metaphor can go some way toward exploring the relation between electricity and modern
life. Furthermore, with this metaphor in mind, I argue that the conditions in Lubhoo may be
characterized, at least in a technological-economic sense, as “anemic modernity.”

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