After Rana Plaza

Rethinking the Health and Safety of Global Garment Workers

Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka in 2013 and a series of factory fires across South Asia, the global dynamics of outsourcing and subcontracting have come under renewed scrutiny by academics, activists, policy makers and governments alike. Focusing on the ‘health and safety’ of garments workers in South Asia, the lecture reviews recent interdisciplinary research on the well-being of workers producing garments for global markets.

It will argue for a novel approach to understanding risk, health and safety at work, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of different initiatives that seek to improve workers’ health standards globally.  The lecture will advocate the need to move beyond a narrow focus on physical work environments and building infrastructure towards a more comprehensive understanding of how health and well-being are experienced on a day-to-day basis by garment workers themselves. The international focus on building safety in the wake of Rana Plaza has left unaddressed the more diffuse, embodied, and politically sensitive concerns about workers’ health voiced from the shop floor. The lecture urges us to rethink this perspective by giving visibility to the health concerns of garment workers across the globe and by placing the whole spectrum of work-related health and well-being issues at the centre of analysis. The lecture will pay particular attention to the gendered experiences of work and health, relate shop floor health issues to the nature of the labour regimes produced by global supply chains, and draw some conclusions for the future of corporate self-regulation through voluntary codes of conduct.

Geert De Neve is a Professor of Social Anthropology and South Asian Studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom. He is author of The Everyday Politics of Labour: Working Lives in India’s Informal Economy (Social Science Press, 2005). He has published widely on labour and ethical governance in India’s garment sector, as well as on various aspects of neoliberal transformation in South Asia. He is also a co-editor of Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Emerald, 2008), and most recently, with Rebecca Prentice, of Unmaking the Global Sweatshop: Health and Safety of the World’s Garment Workers (Penn Press, 2017).

When? Global Studies Research Day – November 16, 2017 – 1:00-2:00 pm

Where? Conference Centre Zebrastraat, Zebrastraat 32, 9000 Gent

Attendance is free, but registration is required: