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The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy


Balakrishnan, Radhika. 2002. The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy. Boulder, Colorado: Kumarian Press.

Author: Radhika Balakrishnan


Looks at the economic trends impacting Asian women and subcontracted labor, illuminating the lives of the millions of women struggling in low-wage jobs. Presents case studies from Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and India. Provides examples of strategic responses from NGOs, unions, and activists, The Hidden Assembly Line studies the impact of subcontracted work in different national settings, linking it to the global economy and to changes in women’s financial security and work opportunities. The contributors debate the implications for women’s empowerment and for the changing social relations of production. This book contains clear, practical information for scholars, students and researchers interested in women’s roles regarding economic development and the globalization of the world economy.

Topics: Development, Economies, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Globalization, Livelihoods, NGOs, Political Economies, Security Regions: Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka

Year: 2002

Militarism, conflict and women's activism in the global era: Challenges and prospects for women in three West African contexts


Mama, Amina and Margo Okazawa-Rey. 2012. "Militarism, conflict and women's activism in the global era: challenges and prospects for women in three West African contexts." Feminist Review 101 (1): 97-123.

Authors: Amina Mama, Margo Okazawa-Rey


This article develops a feminist perspective on militarism in Africa, drawing examples from the Nigerian, Sierra Leonean and Liberian civil wars spanning several decades to examine women’s participation in the conflict, their survival and livelihood strategies, and their activism. We argue that postcolonial conflicts epitomise some of the worst excesses of militarism in the era of neoliberal globalisation, and that the economic, organisational and ideological features of militarism undermine the prospects for democratisation, social justice and genuine security, especially for women, in post-war societies. Theorisations of ‘new wars’ and the war economy are taken as entry points to a discussion of the conceptual and policy challenges posed by the enduring and systemic cultural and material aspects of militarism. These include the contradictory ways in which women are affected by the complex relationship between gendered capitalist processes and militarism, and the manner in which women negotiate their lives through both. Finally, we highlight the potential of transnational feminist theorising and activism for strengthening intellectual and political solidarities and argue that the globalised military security system can be our ‘common context for struggle’1 as contemporary feminist activist scholars.

Keywords: militarism, gender, armed conflict, West Africa, feminism, security

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Democracy / Democratization, Economies, Gender, Femininity/ies, Globalization, Justice, Livelihoods, Militarized livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarism, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Security Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

Year: 2012

Capital’s New Frontier: From “Unusable” Economies to Bottom-of-the-Pyramid Markets in Africa


Dolan, Catherine, and Kate Roll. 2013. "Capital’s New Frontier: From “Unusable” Economies to Bottom-of-the-Pyramid Markets in Africa." African Studies Review 56 (3): 123-46.

Authors: Catherine Dolan, Kate Roll


Over the last decade, the bottom-of-the-pyramid (BoP) approach has gained prominence as a tool of “inclusive” capitalism in sub-Saharan Africa. This approach reframes development as a seamless outcome of core business activities, one that can ameliorate poverty by bringing much-needed products and services to the poor and generating employment opportunities for informal and subsistence workers as “micro-entrepreneurs.” Yet while transnational capital has set its sights on Africa’s “underserved” yet potentially buoyant markets, BoP initiatives do more than seize upon the entrepreneurial talent and aspirations of Africa’s informal economies. This article argues, rather, that these initiatives create BoP economies through a set of market technologies, practices, and discourses that render the spaces and actors at the bottom of the pyramid knowable, calculable, and predictable to global business. The article describes how these technologies extend new forms of market governance over the informal poor, reconfiguring their habits, social practices, and economic strategies under the banner of poverty reduction.

Keywords: Bottom of pyramid, consumption, entrepreneurship, enterprise, international development




Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, Globalization, International Organizations, Multi-national Corporations Regions: Africa

Year: 2013

Gender Water Networks: Femininity and Masculinity in Water Politics in Bolivia


Laurie, Nina. 2011. “Gender Water Networks: Femininity and Masculinity in Water Politics in Bolivia.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 35 (1): 172–88. 

Author: Nina Laurie


This article explores how transnational networking around neoliberal water policies intersects with drives to mainstream gender. It examines how understandings of gender are constructed through water conflicts and demonstrates how complex contemporary gendered water experiences are reflected in a variety of networks operating at and across different scales. It challenges essentialist accounts of gender within policy debates, demonstrating how gendered subjectivities are produced, reproduced and disrupted through hybrid networks of struggle. It shows how these subjectivities enter the global arena through the anti-globalization movement. The article suggests that some transnational water networks become hybrid spaces that draw in both those who support and contest neoliberal agendas and argues that contemporary analyses of water must be understood in this context of intersection. It draws on the example of Bolivian water politics to highlight how gender intersects with ethnicity, notions of appropriate femininity and constructions of heroic masculinities. It illustrates how women's activities are circumscribed by understandings of the supermadre and explores how this femininity has become powerful in representational terms. Finally, the article examines the disciplining role of sexuality in producing femininities and understandings of heroic masculinity in national and transnational settings, including the water ministry and wider contemporary Bolivian politics. 


Topics: Environment, Climate Change, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Femininity/ies, Globalization, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Political Participation Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Bolivia

Year: 2011

Gender and Emergent Water Governance: Comparative Overview of Neoliberalized Natures and Gender Dimensions of Privatization, Devolution and Marketization


Harris, Leila M. 2009. “Gender and Emergent Water Governance: Comparative Overview of Neoliberalized Natures and Gender Dimensions of Privatization, Devolution and Marketization.” Gender, Place & Culture 16 (4): 387–408. 

Author: Leila M. Harris


This article provides a critical reading of some of the gendered dimensions of emergent water governance regimes, specifically those related to the privatization, marketization and devolution of water resources management. After first providing an overview of recent nature–society contributions related to neoliberalization processes, the article comparatively evaluates insights with respect to the gender dimensions of recent shifts in water governance. I make several arguments at the intersection of relevant literatures. First, there is a need for gender theorists interested in water resources and nature–society debates to engage more with issues, theories and processes associated with neoliberalization. Second, there is a need for more attention to gender, feminist theory and approaches to inequality and socio-spatial difference in discussions of neoliberalized natures. Third, reading these literatures together reveals that there is a need to be self-reflexive and critical of elements of the gender and water literature that implicitly endorse foundational ewlements of the neoliberal turn in resource governance. Finally, there are particularities with respect to gender theory and politics, and water materialities that hold importance for understanding recent water governance shifts in the broader context of political and economic changes associated with neoliberalization. 


Keywords: water governance, neoliberalization, privatization, devolution, gender

Topics: Gender, Gender Analysis, Globalization, Governance, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2009

Globalization, Economic Crisis and Africa’s Informal Economy Women Workers


Johnston-Anumonwo, Ibipo, and Donna L. Doane. 2011. “Globalization, Economic Crisis and Africa’s Informal Economy Women Workers.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 32 (1): 8–21.

Authors: Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo, Donna L. Doane


The processes of globalization and debt crisis led to dramatic changes in African countries. In the context of a new economic crisis – now on a global scale – it is useful to revisit debates regarding the impact of earlier policies in response to economic crisis on the poor, with a focus on very low-income informal women workers. In this paper, we adopt a gender analysis framework to examine contending perspectives about the differential impacts of globalization, liberalization and structural adjustment programs on African women and men. We comment on two predominant schools of thought that appear to underlie and define the majority of case studies situated in African countries. While one asserts that globalization and liberalization offer entrepreneurial opportunities for women, an opposing view contends that the neoliberal political and economic reforms connected with structural adjustment policies have been devastating for poor women workers. A review of available empirical research on the responses of informal economy women workers to challenges of increased workload, reduced income and curtailed access to social services, cautions against dogmatic adherence to conceptual perspectives that either assume workers in the informal economy to be dynamic entrepreneurs when they cannot be, or condemn only contemporary policies for conditions that are the product of complex historical processes.

Keywords: informal economy, gender, globalization, structural adjustment programs, africa




Topics: Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Globalization, Livelihoods, Political Economies Regions: Africa

Year: 2011

From “Country Bumpkins” to “Tough Workers”: The Pursuit of Masculinity Among Male Factory Workers in China


Kim, Jaesok. 2015. "From “Country Bumpkins” to “Tough Workers”: The Pursuit of Masculinity Among Male Factory Workers in China." Anthropological Quarterly 88 (1): 133-161.

Author: Jaesok Kim


This article explores the formation of a new industrial underclass in post- Mao China, focusing on a group of young male workers' gendered interpretation of their subjection to an exploitative factory regime. I examine the experiential and performative dimensions of this subjection, which are intricately linked to China's insertion into the global capitalist economy. The transformation of China into the "world's factory" depended on the dramatic increase of foreign direct investment and the rapid expansion of labor-intensive, low-skilled factory jobs that favored the labor of rural migrant women. While the "feminization of production labor" generated some positive outcomes among the women workers, it turned a group of unskilled young male migrants into an industrial underclass. These men assumed menial jobs that drained their physical strength while offering virtually no chance of promotion or improvement in their future lives. Male workers reacted to the exploitative factory regime by engaging in binge drinking and extreme forms of anti-social behavior. This case study shows how class solidarity is sometimes deflected into the domain of gender conflict.

Keywords: labor, gender, masculinity, multinational corporation, China, garment industry, globalization

Topics: Class, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Economies, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Globalization, Livelihoods, Multi-national Corporations, Political Economies Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: China

Year: 2015

Becoming an International Man: Top Manager Masculinities in the Making of a Multinational Corporation


Tienari, Janne, Eero Vaara, and Susan Merilainen. 2010. “Becoming an International Man: Top Manager Masculinities in the Making of a Multinational Corporation.” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal 29 (1): 38–52.

Authors: Janne Tienari, Eero Vaara, Susan Merilainen


Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to address gender and management in contemporary globalization by focusing on the ways in which male top managers in a multinational corporation (MNC) construct their identities in interviews with researchers.

Design/methodology/approach - Qualitative analysis based on interviews with virtually all top managers in the Nordic financial services company Nordea (53 men and two women).

Findings – It is found that becoming international induces a particular masculine identity for the top managers. In becoming international, however, their national identification persists. The instability of the MNC as a political constellation leaves room for questioning the transnational identity offered.

Originality/value - This paper's findings suggest that in the global world of business, national identity can also be interpreted as something positive and productive, contrary to how it has been previously treated in feminist and men's studies literature.

Topics: Economies, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Femininity/ies, Globalization, Multi-national Corporations, Nationalism Regions: Europe, Nordic states

Year: 2010

Gender Eclipsed? Racial Hierarchies in Transnational Call Center Work


Mirchandani, Kiran. 2005. “Gender Eclipsed? Racial Hierarchies in Transnational Call Center Work.” Social Justice 32 (4): 105–19.

Author: Kiran Mirchandani


Feminist ethnographies on the nature of global capitalism have provided a wealth of knowledge on the gendered nature of transnational subcontracting and on the ways that women in the many parts of Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America have been constructed as the "ideal" workers within transnational factories producing garments, food products, shoes, electronics, and transcriptions at nominal cost in developing countries. This article explores a seemingly opposite trend at play in Indian call centers that provide voice-to-voice service to U.S. clients. Call center work is in many ways the epitome of what is commonly seen as "women's work." Providing good service on the telephone requires skills associated with hegemonic femininity, such as being nice, making customers feel comfortable, and dealing with irate customers (Hochschild, 1983; Steinberg and Figart, 1999; Leidner, 1999). Yet, interestingly enough, call center work in the newly emerging centers in New Delhi is not always segregated by gender. In fact, in the interviews I conducted, managers, trainers, and workers unanimously and emphatically construct their jobs in call centers as free of gender-bias and equally appropriate formal and female workers. This article evaluates these discursive claims of occupational desegregation in transnational call center work in India. I argue that the gender segregation in segments of the outsourced call center industry in India is situated within the context of racial hierarchies between Indian workers and Western customers, which fundamentally structure transnational service work. Gender is "eclipsed" in the sense that it is hidden behind a profound, racialized gendering of jobs at a transnational level.

Topics: Economies, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Gendered Discourses, Globalization, Multi-national Corporations, Race Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2005

Gender, Globalization and Organization: Exploring Power, Relations and Intersections


Metcalfe, B. D., and C. J. Rees. 2010. “Gender, Globalization and Organization: Exploring Power, Relations and Intersections.” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal 29 (1): 5–22.

Authors: Beverly Dawn Metcalfe, Christopher J. Rees


Purpose – Current debates on neo-liberal and universalistic globalization pay little attention to gender or to other marginalized groups, and fail to consider the complexity and diversity of the experiences of men and women in specific socio-political contexts, especially those in the developing world. The paper challenges mainstream theories which present globalization and its associated forces as gender neutral. The main purpose of this paper is to advance theoretical debates on the gendered organizing dynamics of globalization.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on organization theory, gender and development studies literature, and feminist sociology, to advance critical understandings of contemporary debates of the intersecting qualities of globalization, transnational organizations and gender social divisions.

Findings – The paper provides a critical synthesis of the complexity and interconnections between gender, organization and globalization. The paper identifies international development agencies; transnational corporations; international nongovernmental organizations and government state machineries as key stakeholders in the global and national regulation of employment and diversity issues. The paper outlines the organizing praxis of these key stakeholders, and stresses the need for all actors to engage in human rights awareness and equality consciousness raising.

Originality/value – The paper provides an original gendered organization analysis of globalization which reveals the specificity of global-local linkages mediated by national states, international organizations, women’s NGOs and gendered government machineries.

Keywords: gender, globalization, organizations, feminism, transnational companies

Topics: Development, Feminisms, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Globalization, Governance, International Organizations, Multi-national Corporations, NGOs, Rights, Human Rights

Year: 2010


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