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The Global Apparel Industry

Last updated:
14 July 2015
The articles in this virtual issue, culled from over 20 years of Anthropology of Work Review issues, provide us with a lens through which to better understand the workings of the global apparel industry, and perhaps more importantly, the lived reality of its laborers. While the industry is structured by stark inequalities, its local impacts are hardly black and white. Goldin (2012) reveals high rates of labor turnover in Guatemala apparel factories, arguing that it is a form of resistance to oppressive forms of global capitalist production. Lessinger (2002) and Hewamanne and Brow (1999) explore the occupational cultures created by female garment workers in India and Sri Lanka and the autonomy and resistance they foster. Prentice (2008) takes readers deep within a Trinidadian garment factory, describing her own experience of learning to sew and the embodiment of labor discipline this required whereas Lynch’s article (1999) on Sri Lanka’s “juki girls” similarly demonstrates the ways in which employees learn not only a labor process but also how to embody a new, “modern” identity.


Last updated:
14 July 2015
In recent years the concept of precarity, shorthand for the “multiple forms of nightmarish dispossession and injury that our age entails”, has inserted itself into the heart of anthropology (Muehlebach 2013). Although anthropologists have long been attuned to the cultural and historical specificities of precarity and how it is embodied and lived by subjects in diverse locations, its broad contours are mapped onto a specific set of factors, including increased economic uncertainty; the loss of state and corporate provisioning; threats of violence, marginalization and injustice; and environmental destruction, which have eroded not just labor and the state but the possibility of life itself.

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