Gendered Commodity Chains: Seeing Women's Work and Households in Global Production

Gendered Commodity Chains: Seeing Women's Work and Households in Global Production

Gendered Commodity Chains: Seeing Women's Work and Households in Global Production

Gendered Commodity Chains: Seeing Women's Work and Households in Global Production


Gendered Commodity Chains is the first book to consider the fundamental role of gender in global commodity chains. It challenges long-held assumptions of global economic systems by identifying the crucial role social reproduction plays in production and by declaring the household as an important site of production. In affirming the importance of women's work in global production, this cutting-edge volume fills an important gender gap in the field of global commodity and value chain analysis.

With thirteen chapters by an international group of scholars from sociology, anthropology, economics, women's studies, and geography, this volume begins with an eye-opening feminist critique of existing commodity chain literature. Throughout its remaining five parts, Gendered Commodity Chains addresses ways women's work can be integrated into commodity chain research, the forms women's labor takes, threats to social reproduction, the impact of indigenous and peasant households on commodity chains, the rapidly expanding arenas of global carework and sex trafficking, and finally, opportunities for worker resistance. This broadly interdisciplinary volume provides conceptual and methodological guides for academics, graduate students, researchers, and activists interested in the gendered nature of commodity chains.


Immanuel Wallerstein

A mere fifty years ago, women were a marginalized and largely unobserved social group, both in social life and in the writings of social scientists. They were one of the principal forgotten peoples along with socially defined “minorities” and persons practicing socially repudiated sexualities. The subordination of women to men goes back a very long way, possibly to the inception of human collective life. It has no doubt taken different forms in different kinds of historical social systems. The advent of the modern world-system built around a capitalist world-economy continued this subordination in new ways. There was one important change. One of the major legacies of the French Revolution was to define the “people” as the locus of sovereignty and, therefore, of the formal equality of all “citizens” who constituted this “people.”

Were not women people? The story ever since then has been to develop all kinds of rationales to deny women their status as part of the sovereign “people” and, therefore, to negate their claims to equal rights with men. A struggle over legitimacy ensued, and that struggle was grounded in conflict between theoretical equality and practical inequality.

The world-revolution of 1968 had as one of its major features the revolt of the forgotten peoples, both in social life and in the structures of knowledge. Feminist movements arose to pursue these demands in every sphere of life. Slowly, women were able to obtain rights to suffrage, which changed something but, as it turned out, not all that much. In the history of feminist movements, the world-revolution of 1968 gave a new and important impetus to their organizations. Most particularly, feminist movements raised the issue, previously not in the forefront of their consciousness, of women in the structures of knowledge.

A major part of this effort was to make the distinction between sex (an old category) and gender (a new one). Sex refers to a biological construct. Therefore, it had been considered a given in social contexts. One could not change one’s sex, or so it was believed (at least before the advent of the technological advances of more recent years). Gender as a concept refers not to . . .

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