Women, family and factory work in Northern Thailand : an anthropological study of a Japanese factory and its workers villages.
This thesis discusses how rural young women cope with the modern capitalist system
and how their industrial experiences affect their family life, based on participant
observation both in a Japanese-owned assembly factory and in its workers' villages, in
Lamphun, Northern Thailand.
The thesis is divided into three parts: the first deals with the traditional notions of work
and femininity, the second with factory interactions, and the third with the influence of
factory employment on family life. The first part examines the connotations and
interactions of iigai:, meaning work and rites, and the gender and family ideology that
control young women's labour and sexuality.
The second part of the thesis looks at the experience of young women in the factory,
and we see how each of the village women, utilising both her ready-made values and
new values relating to factory employment, is struggling for power and honour in
factory interactions. The analysis of the hierarchical relations in the factory pays
particular attention to how Thai workers' practices, which Japanese managers neglect
as personal affairs, structure, reshape and control labour relations and the production
process. Moreover, in analysing cultural practices not directly relating to work,
romantic stories, spirit mcdiumship and catalogue consumption, we sec how desires
for modernity and autonomous self-images are produced in factory interactions.
Moving back to the village again, the final part shows how factory women's selfimage
and ideal life, constructed in factory interactions, affect their family
relationships, courtship, housesvork and home consumption. In the conclusion I argue
that the factory provides the women with an opportunity for enjoying cultural
imagining relating to female sexuality and gender, which on the one hand largely affect
the operation of the factory system, and on the other arc linked with their cultural
transformation at home.