Atolye Kizlari (workshop girls) : a study of women's labour in the export-oriented garment industry in Turkey
This study examines the informal work aspects of global restructuring with a focus on relations of gender, solidarity, and conflict in the workplace. Rather than trying to conduct a macro level analysis of restructuring process, the study aims to explore how this process is embedded at the local level by focusing on industrial workshops, which are located at the lowest end of international subcontracting chains. Empirically, the research focuses on the garment workshops located in residential areas in the peripheries of Istanbul. The data was mainly collected from in-depth interviews conducted with workshop owners and female garment workers, and my own participant observation in two garment workshops as a worker. The research centres in two themes. The first theme explores how gender ideologies reinforce workshop production and how existing forms of gender relations are absorbed, transformed and manipulated in the work place as global restructuring processes tap into female labour in the peripheries of Istanbul. The study questions which forms of social values are pushed aside and which remain, as young female workers are introduced to informal work in residential districts. As a second theme, this study examines workspace relations in industrial workshops within the context of class-based resistance and solidarity. Work relations in small-scale production in less developed countries are often analysed within the context of domination and authority reinforced by family and kinship networks. In contrast to such approaches, this study analyses class relations as a process, which is interwoven and overlapped with other forms of social relations, rather than as coherent and mutually exclusive group solidarities. It argues that perceiving class as a process opens up a space, which allows us to shift from emphasising domination and authority in the analysis of work relations in informal work settings to workers' resistance strategies and solidarities. This perspective also allows us to explore family and kinship relations from this new understanding of class relations.