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Gender and agency: clothing consumption practices of women factory workers in Bangladesh

Jahan, Fatema Rouson; (2018) Gender and agency: clothing consumption practices of women factory workers in Bangladesh. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis examines the clothing consumption practices of women factory workers in the garment industry of Bangladesh to develop an approach that acknowledges their agency. My research contributes to the wider debates on factory work, consumption and changing gender identities in the global labour market by incorporating the specificity of the Bangladeshi context. In comparison to the existing studies that focus on the lifestyle of single women who live independently and are unsupervised by the family, the present study explores the clothing choices of both single and married women who live with their families and are constantly guarded by their family members, relatives and collective networks. I locate my research within the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977) ‘habitus’ and Deniz Kandiyoti’s (1988) ‘patriarchal bargain’, to understand how women workers exercise agency within a cultural context dominated by the norms of gender, purdah and patriarchy. I conducted sixty interviews and eight focus group discussions over a period of six months in the Narayanganj district of Bangladesh. My study analyses the agency of the women workers in the negotiation between different identities and contradictory traditions in their clothing consumption. First, there is a contradiction between dressing like other factory workers on special occasions and dressing differently on other occasions. Second, there is a contradiction between widespread stereotypes of the workers’ clothing choices that distinguish them from those of middle-class women and the workers’ own narratives, which resist such stereotypes. Third, there is a contradiction between adherence to the norms of purdah and paying lip service to those norms. And fourth, there is a contradiction between dressing as a Bengali and dressing as a Muslim. I argue that the women workers exercise their agency in choosing their clothing strategically so as to accommodate both their Bengali and their Muslim identity, a choice that both confirms their adherence to the norms in question and signals their willingness to redefine those norms.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Gender and agency: clothing consumption practices of women factory workers in Bangladesh
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2018. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10064321
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