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Girls of the Factory

A Year with the Garment Workers of Morocco

M. Laetitia Cairoli

Publication Year: 2011

In Morocco today, the idea of female laborers is generally frowned upon. Yet despite this, many women are beginning to find work in factories.

Laetitia Cairoli spent a year in the ancient city of Fes; Girls of the Factory tells the story of what life is like for working women. Forced to find a factory job herself so that she could speak more intimately with working women, she was able to learn firsthand why they work, what working means to them, and how important earning a wage is to their sense of self.

Cairoli conveys a general sense of the working life of women in Morocco by describing daily life inside a Moroccan sewing factory. She also reveals the additional work they face inside their homes. More than an ethnography, this volume is also for those who want to better understand what life is like for a new generation of young women just entering the workforce.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page

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Front Matter


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p. v


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pp. vii-xii

A Note on Transliteration

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p. xiii

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pp. 1-15

I was motivated to write this book by the discrepancy between doing ethnographic fieldwork and writing about it. Anthropology demands objectivity; theorizing and data collection eclipse any need for sensory descriptions. And yet it is a visceral experience...

Part 1. In the Streets

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p. 17

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1. Finding the Workers

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pp. 19-42

My husband and I arrived in Rabat. He would be teaching at the university, and I was to begin my research into the lives of factory workers. Everything was terribly familiar, for...

Part 2. Inside the Factory

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p. 43

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2. Gaining Entrée

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pp. 45-65

The factory where I spent the next few months working and learning about the lives of the factory girls is a large gray cement building sitting on a paved road in one of Fes’s industrial districts. It sits near a leather tanning plant and across the street from an...

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3. The Girls in the Packing Department

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pp. 66-123

On Monday morning Sylvie sent me to work in the packing area. Here the finished products are inspected, tagged with tickets from foreign department stores, packaged according to the clients’ specifications, and loaded onto the trucks that will carry...

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4. Final Days

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pp. 124-146

On Monday, I woke up feeling ill. I was too sick to stand up and did not go to the factory. On Tuesday, I took myself to a doctor in the center of Fes. When he heard that I had been working in a factory, he told me that the factory was what had made me...

Part 3. Inside the Home

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p. 147

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5. Introductions

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pp. 149-161

Nadia never worked in the factory where I worked. I met Nadia in the factory named Couture, during a rainy spell in late November, when the factory owner (who, incidentally, believed I was a CIA agent) allowed me to survey his workers. Some days after...

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6. The Women in the Sitting Room

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pp. 162-218

One afternoon I went to visit Nadia and found her ill. It was cold outside, and she was lying on the banquette in the chill of the sitting room, covered in a blanket, in pain. “There is something wrong with my uterus,” she told me, and almost immediately Jamila...

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7. Taking Leave

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pp. 219-229

It is now the end of July, and my departure is near. Fes is enclosed by mountains, and these mountains trap the heat inside the city. I feel like I am baking, and I want to go home. For months I have been visiting Nadia and her family. I have been engrossed with Jamila’s and Aisha’s...

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pp. 230-238

All over the world, local communities experience the impact of globalization. Neo-liberal economic reforms in 1980s Morocco opened the economy to new investments and fueled the development of the garment manufacturing industry. Young Moroccan...

Appendix 1. Inside the Factory: Sewing Factory Personnel

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pp. 239-240

Appendix 2. Inside the House

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pp. 241-242


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pp. 243-244


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pp. 245-254

Works Cited

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pp. 255-260


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pp. 260-264

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813045573
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813035611
Print-ISBN-10: 0813035619

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 801844608
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Girls of the Factory

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women clothing workers -- Morocco -- Case studies.
  • Teenage girls -- Employment -- Morocco -- Case studies.
  • Teenage girls -- Morocco -- Social conditions -- Case studies.
  • Women -- Morocco -- Social conditions -- Case studies.
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