Becoming ‘active labour protestors’


With Dr. Madhumita Dutta

March 18th, 2021 @ 6.30 PM EST via Zoom 

Image: Garment Factory in South India, Fabrics for Freedom, CC BY 2.0

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India ranks 5th in the global garment exports with an estimated workforce of over 2 million workers. The bedrock of this export industry are poorly paid, migrant women and men. The industry is marked by high rate of exploitation and precarious employment.  Women are often perceived as a dispossessed lot without any means to resist their exploitation.  What possibilities remain within this narrative to make room for everyday politics and resistances? Looking at the individual and collective struggles of garment workers in two southern Indian states, this paper highlights the everyday organizing strategies of women resisting their ‘disposability’. Specifically, the paper draws attention to women’s life stories to demonstrate what can be learnt from them about the conditions under which to imagine, and come to, build labour unions. The paper contributes to the critical feminist labour scholarship on global factories by explicating the tension between the need to illuminate the extent of exploitation and the urgency of drawing attention to women’s stories.

Madhumita Dutta is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Ohio State University. She has a PhD in Geography from the University of Durham, United Kingdom and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Global Workers’ Rights at Pennsylvania State University. Before joining the academy, Madhumita worked as an activist in India for over sixteen years,  with communities fighting against the excesses of the state and corporate power.

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Co-sponsors: The Department of Anthropology and the Center for Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY.