The Sweatshop Regime: Garments, Exploitation, and labouring Bodies made in India
Drawing from Marxian and feminist insights, this presentation, based on a recently completed book, theorizes the garment sweatshop in India as a complex 'regime' of exploitation and oppression, jointly crafted by global, regional and local actors, and working across productive and reproductive realms. The analysis shows the tight correspondence between the physical and social materiality of garment production in India; it illustrates the great social differentiation and complex patterns of labour unfreedom at work in the industry; and it depicts the sweatshop as a complex joint enterprise against the labouring body, which is systematically and inexorably depleted and consumed by garment work, even in the absence of major industrial disasters, like Rana Plaza. By placing labour at the very centre of the analysis of processes of development, the book critically engages with key debates on industrial modernity, modern slavery, and ethical consumerism.
Alessandra Mezzadri is Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at SOAS, London. Her research interests focus on global industrial circuits and labour informalisation; labour standards and ethical consumerism; feminist and social reproduction theory; and India’s political economy. She was the India co-investigator for the ESRC/DfID project, “Labour Standards and the Working Poor in China and India,” and sole investigator for the India-focused British Academy project, “The Global Village? Homeworking in the Global Economy.” Her research has been published in journals such as Third World Quarterly, Progress in Development Studies, Competition and Change, Oxford Development Studies, and Global Labour Journal, among others, and across several media outlets. Alessandra is the author of The Sweatshop Regime: Labouring Bodies, Exploitation and Garments 'Made in India' published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.
The South Asia Seminar is co-funded by the Ashmolean Museum, the Asian Studies Centre of St Antony’s College, the Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, the Department for International Development and Faculty of History and the Faculty of Oriental Studies.