Live or be left to die? Deregulated bodies and the global production network: expendable workers of the Bangladeshi apparel industry in the time of Covid

Fahreen Alamgir, Fariba Alamgir, Faria Irina Alamgir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This paper draws upon the experience of mainly women workers in the Bangladeshi apparel industry to explore whether deregulated bodies are the fundamental condition of work in the global production network (GPN). We organised the study during the first waves of Covid-19. To conceptualise how ‘deregulated bodies’ have been structured into the industry as the exchange condition of work, we draw on the work of transnational feminist and Marxist scholars. The study provides insights about how a gendered GPN emerged under the neoliberal development regime; the pattern of work and work conditions are innately linked to volatile market conditions. By documenting workers’ lived experiences, the paper enhances our empirical understanding of how workers depend upon work, and how a form of expendable but regulated life linked with work has been embedded in GPN. Our findings reveal that unlike those of other human beings, workers’ bodies do not need to be regulated by norms that enable protection from Covid-19. As for the workers, work implies earning for living and survival, so ‘live or be left to die’ becomes the fundamental employment condition, and the possibility of their death an overlooked consideration. This reality has not changed or been challenged, despite the existence of compliance regimes. We further argue that as scholars, we bear a responsibility to consider how we engage in research on the implications of such organisation practices in a global environment, when all of us are experiencing the pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalOrganization
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Bangladeshi apparel industry
  • deregulated bodies
  • deregulation
  • equality
  • global production network
  • survival
  • violence

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