Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Conveyor belt of flesh: Urban space and proliferation of the industrial labor practices
by Balaban, Utku Baris, Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, 2010, 503; 3461977
Abstract (Summary)

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed the worldwide (re)emergence of the non-factory forms of industrial labor. Academic studies predominantly emphasize the economic and political globalization to explain this phenomenon. This thesis investigates the local urban dynamics of this 'proliferation of the industrial labor practices' with a field research in Istanbul, Turkey.

The field research focused on the organizational and employment-related characteristics of the factory system, sweatshop labor, and home-based work in the garment industry of Bagcilar, a major industrial region in Istanbul. For the participant observation, the researcher worked as an unskilled worker at one factory and three sweatshops and resided in Bagcilar for ten months in 2008. In-depth interviews and a time-use survey were conducted with industrial home-based workers. In-depth interviews with coworkers and managers at the factory and the sweatshops complemented the observations of the researcher as a resident of Bagcilar. This exercise revealed three findings.

First, domestic migration to the city constantly reshapes the conditions of competition among garment enterprises and, accordingly, keeps the average longevity per enterprise short. This renders the non-factory labor practices viable.

Second, apartment buildings replace squatter settlements, yield a higher population density, and provide space and labor for numerous sweatshops and home-based work networks in the working-class neighborhoods. Because of this urban transformation, supply chains can connect different labor practices in a particular spatial division of labor and keep their organizational integrity despite a high circulation of individual enterprises.

Third, factory system in Istanbul's garment industry relies on ethnically, regionally, and/or religiously homogeneous neighborhoods as their labor reserve, while sweatshop labor and home-based work prevail as the dominant labor practices in heterogeneous neighborhoods in terms of such identity affiliations. Heterogeneity leads to a high circulation of the workforce at garment enterprises. Thus, sweatshops and home-based work networks in such heterogeneous neighborhoods have a limited potential for growth.

These findings reveal the following tendency concerning the proliferation process: the higher the mobility of the factors of production is, the higher is the tendency to the proliferation of the forms of industrial labor.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Keyder, Caglar
Commitee: Beneria, Lourdes, Murray, Martin, Quataert, Donald, Roth, Benita
School: State University of New York at Binghamton
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Labor relations, Urban planning
Keywords: Garment industry, Globalization, Informal labor, Labor process, Turkey, Urban migration, Urban transformation
Publication Number: 3461977
ISBN: 978-1-124-76622-5
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