Concepts, Research, Policy
Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 68: Fraternal Capital and the Feminisation of Labour in South India
Sharad Chari This chapter reflects on processes of industrialisation and global production in the town of Tiruppur, South India, in the late twentieth century, to draw implications for a gendered critique of capitalist hegemony (Chari, 2004). The first section recounts Tiruppur’s transformation into India’s centre for the global production of knitted fashion garments. Work in Tiruppur is organised in networks of small firms, not unlike the much vaunted ‘industrial districts’ of Silicon Valley or the Third Italy (Terza Italia) (Piore and Sable, 1984). My research1 critiques these metropolitan expectations by turning to the fraternity of capitalists of modest worker-peasant origins who made Tiruppur a powerhouse of global production. In the second part of the chapter I reflect upon why gender enters debates about Tiruppur when a male-dominated work regime admits women workers. The equation of gender with women’s problems does have a basis in the exploitation of women workers, but the changes and challenges run deeper. I ask how the ‘feminisation of labour’ has taken specific form through gendered discourses that accompanied Tiruppur’s shifts to global production through a diverse and unequal workforce. I conclude that Tiruppur’s social formation can be seen as one instance of global production in which gender articulates sexed bodies to processes of capitalist accumulation in diverse ways (Salzinger, 2003). As Marx (1967) reminds us, accumulation is not just ‘economic growth’, or the amassing of wealth through increased productivity, but also the amassing of working-class poverty and insecurity. Tiruppur shows how both processes of accumulation are...
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