The ubiquity of building construction in contemporary Mumbai is transforming everyday urban life and landscape. This article examines one facet of the building construction industry: its organization of labor through distinctions of skill. Distinctions among skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled labor shape the everyday work of building, yet these terms only partially map onto hierarchies of embodied capacities and know-how. At least two vectors are producing what I term a “problem-space” concerning skill. On one hand, long-standing patterns of informal learning by doing and solving problems at hand are now being challenged by a new industry emphasis on formal training as the basis for skill. On the other hand, builders do not necessarily seek to change their heavy reliance on labor categorized as unskilled, at times viewing technology as an ultimate solution to what they see as the limitation of the majority of workers. Workers, for their part, while largely eschewing a language of skill, nonetheless valorize a variety of forms of embodied knowledge and ability, including those involved in exiting the strenuous work of building to become a contractor of construction labor.

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