n Economic History of Developing Regions - Factory, family, and industrial frontier : a socioeconomic study of Chinese clothing firms in Newcastle, South Africa - research

Volume 34 Number 3
  • ISSN : 2078-0389
  • E-ISSN: 2078-0397
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This paper examines ethnic Chinese garment production and Zulu women workers in Newcastle, South Africa - a former border town between white South Africa and the black KwaZulu homeland. The established scholarship, while providing useful explanations for the arrival of ethnic Chinese clothing factories and offering valid critiques of South Africa’s industrial policies, pays little attention either to Chinese business practices or their long-term impact on Zulu women workers’ lives. Using both archival and ethnographic evidence, this paper argues that in response to harsh business and socioeconomic conditions, both the ethnic Chinese industrialists and Zulu women workers have creatively utilized and reshaped existing familial arrangements to operate factories and maintain stability as a workforce. It highlights the ways in which capitalist production transplants, adapts, and refashions its material and cultural forms on the frontier. In many ways, Chinese industrialists and Zulu women are not passive products but active shapers of the industrial frontier.

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