Many accounts of the globalization of production in the late 20th and early 21st
centuries focus on the boom of new foreign direct investment in so-called global factories
in the global South. Global Displacements shifts the focus of academic inquiry to an
equally pervasive moment of transnational capitalist production: the collapse of labourintensive
employment strategies and the restructuring of spatial and social divisions of
labour in their wake. Drawing on ethnographic methods and historical accounts of
economic change in the Dominican Republic’s northern Cibao region, I consider the
restructuring of the country’s export apparel industry, the most long-standing and
successful in the circum-Caribbean.
Over the past decade, facing increased competition for US market share and a
new regime of trade regulation without global quotas, garment firms in the Dominican
Republic undertook a process of restructuring, including the retrenchment of the majority
of the country’s garment workforce. I explore this process from the perspective of four
sociospatial locations: Dominican firms integrated into transnational production
assemblages, the embodied labour geographies of former garment workers, the layered
histories of accumulation and disinvestment of the Cibao region and its border with Haiti,
and my own position as a researcher. Bringing the insights of deconstruction and Marxist
and feminist theory to bare on a critical ethnography of industrial restructuring, I examine
geographies of production as constituted by displacements: that is, the complex
mechanism of inclusion in and exclusion from circuits of capital accumulation that
reproduce subjects and places with difference. My study of displacements in the
Dominican Republic illustrates how accumulation proceeds through the reproduction of
hierarchies of labour, premised upon reworking the violent abstractions of race, gender
and nation along existing and new spatial contours of profit-making and disinvestment.
Geographies of work and industrial restructuring in the Dominican Republic
reveal problematic assumptions that lie behind much contemporary analysis of industrial
change. Many accounts frame global industrial restructuring since the 1970s as a process
of outward capitalist expansion, incorporating new places and new subjects into
transnational labour processes. Such a framing reduces complex, nonlinear experiences
of industrial transformation to a teleological sequence, where industrialization serves a
marker of “development,” signifying a measure of one’s closeness or distance from
Eurocentric modernity. By decentering teleological assumptions of industrialization, the
geography of displacements presented in the following pages demonstrates industrial
restructuring to be an on-going reworking of industrial and deindustrial processes
irreducible to fixed and sequential categories of the postindustrial, newly industrializing, or so-called developing worlds.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2010. Major: Geography. Advisors: Dr. Eric Sheppard and Dr. Richa Nagar. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 231 pages, appendix I. Ill. map (some col.)
Global displacements : geographies of work and industrial restructuring in the Dominican Republic..
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