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Textures of Struggle

Textures of Struggle: The Emergence of Resistance among Garment Workers in Thailand

Piya Pangsapa
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press,
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Textures of Struggle
    Book Description:

    Based on intensive ethnographic fieldwork in Thailand, Textures of Struggle focuses on the experiences of Thai women who are employed at textile factories and examines how the all-encompassing nature of wage work speaks to issues of worker accommodation and resistance within various factory settings. Why are some women less tolerant of their working conditions than others? How is it that women who have similar levels of education, come from the same socioeconomic background, and enter the same occupation, nevertheless emerge with different experiences and reactions to their wage employment?

    Women in the Thai apparel industry, Piya Pangsapa finds, have very different experiences of labor "militancy" and "non-militancy." Through interviews with women at two kinds of factories-one linked to the global economy through local capital investment and another through transnational capital-Pangsapa examines issues of worker consciousness with a focus on the process by which women become activists. She explores the different degrees of control and coercion employed by factory managers and shows how women were able to overcome conditions of adversity by relying on the close personal ties they developed with each other. Textures of Struggle reveals what it is like for women to feel powerlessness and passivity in Thai sweatshops but also shows how they are equally able to resist and rebel.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6174-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Piya Pangsapa
  4. Introduction. The Condition of Women Garment Workers in Thailand
    (pp. 1-34)

    Imagine having to work twelve straight hours every day of the week, 360 days a year, in a rundown building, a converted car garage, or a makeshift warehouse with floors made of cardboard boxes and roofs of thin aluminum siding. Imagine working when itʹs hot and humid, 98 degrees outside and over 100 degrees inside, and thereʹs only one old ceiling fan whirling above. Imagine not being allowed to drink any water when you work. Imagine that the only drinking water provided comes from a pipe attached to the sewer. Imagine having to tolerate your thirst until you get home...

  5. 1 Adaptation and Accommodation: The ʺNonmilitantʺ Women
    (pp. 35-79)

    The factory represents the predominant physical space where women build close personal relationships and an attachment to the stability that work offers. This chapter tells the story of a group of women workers who have never been involved in any form of direct action against their employer. These are women who have been working for ten, twenty, and in some cases thirty or more consecutive years in the same factory, performing the same task often seven days a week, fourteen hours a day, 353 days a year. Why were these women, young and old, working for such extended periods of...

  6. 2 Resistance and Worker Rebellion: The ʺMilitantʺ Women
    (pp. 80-129)

    The stories of women in this chapter reveal a ʺmilitantʺ consciousness evolving at a time when the textile industry was at its height in the early 1990s. Economic prosperity meant greater profits for factory owners and greater exploitation for workers. Workers in manufacturing industries were oft en subjected to various direct and forcible forms of control, paltry wages, and truly horrible work conditions, prompting a surge in labor unrest in the form of spontaneous and sporadic outbreaks, wildcat strikes, and protests at medium and large factories throughout the urban industrial zones outside of Bangkok. Workers were able to gain the...

  7. 3 Workers in the Post–Crisis Period
    (pp. 130-166)

    The financial crisis in East Asia, triggered by the collapse of the Thai baht in July 1997, prompted many large employers to close down their factories and outsource production to smaller, non-unionized, subcontract factories as a cost-cutting measure. Massive layoffs of women in export industries resulted.

    A large part of the financial crisis was a direct result of sustained infusion of foreign capital, or ʺhot capital,ʺ during the early to mid-1990s, which primarily went into currency speculation, the stock market, and the real estate and financial sectors. Lured by the prospect of quick and easy profit, owners of large manufacturing...

  8. Conclusion. Looking Back, Moving Forward
    (pp. 167-184)

    On Tuesday, December 17, 2002, F2 shut down its operations without advance warning to any of its workers. Women coming to work as usual that morning found the factory gates locked. Workers were given no reason why the factory closed. Later that day, workers discovered that the owner had already moved all the production equipment and machinery to another facility and was continuing to produce garments at its subcontract factory. The F2 employer alleged that the Bangkok Bank had filed a claim against the factory and that a court warrant had been issued demanding repossession of all factory assets, including...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 185-204)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 205-208)
  11. Index
    (pp. 209-218)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-220)