November 17, 2015—Lamia Karim, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon, has been named a 2016-17 Fellow at the International Research Center “Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History” at Humboldt University in Berlin (IGK re:work) to complete her book manuscript Becoming Labor: Life Cycles of Female Garment Labor in Bangladesh. As a Fellow at IGK re:work, she will write on female labor in the readymade garment industry in Bangladesh, which is number two after China in apparel production.
Dr. Karim, a native of Bangladesh who has taught at UO since 2003, says the garment industry was a result of the US Multi-Fiber Agreement and the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Clothing and Textiles that gave Bangladesh quota-free access to western markets. Access to western markets and an abundant supply of cheap labor has made Bangladesh into a major supplier for Wal-Mart, H&M, Gap, Old Navy, and other labels.
“Although this factory work is extensively exploitative,” she explains, “its social environment introduces new social roles that transform young women’s lives. Over four million rural-to-urban migrant women between 15 to 35 years work in this sector.”
Dr. Karim examines how industrial work has introduced new gender norms and social identities with respect to (a) delayed marriage and childbearing; (b) poor women’s ability to initiate a divorce; and (c) a rise in nuclear life structure and co-parenting by husbands. The book explores how women’s life cycles have changed during the 20-year work period in terms of sexuality, marriage, family life, reproduction, health, religious beliefs, autonomy, and political consciousness.
Dr. Karim served as associate director of the UO Center for the Study of Women in Society from 2010–2012 and continues to maintain ties to the center as an affiliated faculty member. She is the author of Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh (University of Minnesota Press, March 2011).
IGK re:work each year invites senior scholars and postdoctoral candidates to apply for 10 to 15 international research fellowships for the duration of the following academic year. Dr. Karim will be on fellowship from October 1, 2016 through July 31, 2017.
“re:work or IGK Work and Human Life Cycle in Global History belongs to the Käte Hamburger Collegia for research in the social sciences and is therefore part of the ‘Freedom for Research in the Humanities’ funding initiative run by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).” For more information, go to: https://rework.hu-berlin.de/en/news.html