Women and Work in Globalising Asia
Fennell, Vera Leigh
WOMEN AND WORK IN GLOBALISING ASIA. Edited by Dong-Sook S. Gills and Nicola Piper. London and New York: Routledge (an imprint of the Taylor and Francis Group). 2002. xvii, 238 pp. (Tables.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 0-415-25586-4.
This is an important volume on the social and political effects of globalization and its impact on working women in Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, China and the United States. The authors use ethnographic data to emphasize women’s labour experience. In so doing, they also highlight the theoretical challenges to state autonomy their labour mobility poses in two ways. First, by exploring the working experiences of female non-migrant workers (in Japan, South Korea, India and Vietnam) and female internal labour migrants (in Thailand, Malaysia and China), the author’s emphasis on globalization’s social disruptions work with local patriarchy. Beverley Bishop’s article on risutora (economic restructuring) and its effect on Japanese women’s occupational categories, Uhn Cho’s piece on the status of women workers in South Korea during the IMF bail-out of the late 1990s, Chaya Degaonkar and Dong-Sook S. Gills’s chapter on the competitive demands of the capitalization of agriculture and the feminization of labour in rural India that followed it, and Mila Rosenthal’s article on doi moi (economic renovation) and the declining status of women workers in the stale-owned textile factory in Vietnam all concentrate on those whose mobility is contained within the nation-state. The situation of internal migrants is different, and is explored in the following pieces: Sally Theobald’s chapter on women in Thailand’s Northern Regional Industrial Estate (NRIE) export-processing zone (EPZ), Vicki Crinis’s chapter on the relocation of textile factories from the “core” states of Malaysia to the rural ” periphery,” and Minghua Zhao/Jackie West’s piece on female rural migrant labour in China, which looks at state-sector cotton mills in Henan Province. These articles focus on internal female migrant labour within a state already compromised by the influence of foreign capital and EPZs. Interestingly, this volume also examines young working women’s transnational labour migration, in Nicola Piper’s article on Filipina, Thai and Chinese women working in the Japanese sex and entertainment industries to Evelyn HuDeHart’s piece on Chinese women working in the urban garment neosweatshops of Los Angeles/San Francisco/Oakland and New York’s Chinatown. This migration complicates ideas of modern Western-style citizenship and its relationship to economic justice. However, the most interesting aspect of this volume’s theoretical approach is the attention it gives to worker agency and resistance. In the opening chapter, Dong-Sook S. Gills notes that the hegemony of the neoliberal model-its appearance as an inevitable path-make resistance seem impossible. Yet, each author ends her chapter with a discussion of counter-globalization, looking at the organized collective resistance strategies that these workers-young and single or middle-aged and married-have used to respond to the deterioration of their value as workers. They introduce the reader to grassroots groups like YASANTI (Yayasan Annisa Swasti) in Central Java, as explored in Michele Ford’s chapter on the effect of middle-class non-governmental organizations (NGO) on female factory and migrant domestic workers; or the Lamphun Women’s Health Center (LWHC) in Thailand, as discussed in Sally Theobald’s chapter on Thai women in the NRIE EPZ. Another resistance strategy used by Asian women workers involves participating in NGOs like Indonesia’s Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity), an organization that has linkages to other regional and international feminist NGOs, or through the development and promotion of international legal regimes like the United Nations’ Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). But this aspect of globalization-the globalization of resistance-has had mixed results, as many of the chapters demonstrate. Despite the spread of global legal regimes, other counter-globalization strategies are needed. The authors successfully demonstrate that the “dynamics between both structure-agency and internal-external operates in both directions…” (Gills, p. 13).
The Colorado College, Colorado Springs, U.S.A. VERA LEIGH FENNELL
Copyright University of British Columbia Summer 2003
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