In the second episode of our podcast series Workplace Matters, Dina Mehnaz Siddiqi, an anthropologist at NYU, introduces her long-term ethnographic study of garment workers in Bangladesh.
Dina Mehnaz Siddiqi reflects on the historical debates between Marxists and culturalists that inspired her as an undergraduate in Dhaka in the 1990s to study women working in Bangladesh’s export garment industry. She recalls how her expectations were challenged by the subjectivity, morality, and politics of the workers she encountered. She shows how their new identities were shaped by the spatiality of the workplace, as well as their positions in the city and in the middle-class imagination of the nation. She outlines how this changed over the last four decades, and how this came about due to the strategies of transnational capital and the Bangladeshi state, as well as the everyday struggles and militant protests of workers themselves. She emphasizes the importance of clearly locating the industry in the global context established by supply chains linking multinational corporations, national governments, local capitalists, and workers in asymmetrical fashion. She also reflects on the paucity of research on environmental justice in the study of the garment industry and points to the lack of attention to labor issues in the feminist agenda. Lastly, Dina calls upon anthropologists, historians, and sociologists to act more as public intellectuals and engage in wider social debates.
Workplace matters podcasts are produced by: Görkem Akgöz, Prerna Agarwal, Hasan Ashraf, Rick Halpern, Arnaud Kaba, Bridget Kenny, Sandra Lourenço, Aslı Odman, Nico Pizzolato, Mariana Stoler, Christian Strümpell
You can listen to this episode here: