- Global Displacements: The Making of Uneven Development in the Caribbean by Marion Werner
As part of the Antipode Book Series, Global Displacements fittingly adopts a critical approach to analyzing contemporary restructuring of the global garment industry. While focused primarily on the Dominican Republic and Haiti, it highlights continuing uneven development and inequality at multiple geographical scales, from the global to the regional, national to the local, and even to the individual including racialized and gendered aspects. It is important to note that the study is not a comparative study of the garment free-trade zones between these two countries, but a relational study of this industry within, and between, the Dominican Republic and Haiti over the past three decades. Encompassing both the structural forces at play and the impacts they have on local agency, the book also utilizes primary field research on household and individual livelihood strategies aimed to mitigate the negative impacts of these structural forces related to restructuring of the global garment industry.
The first quarter of the book highlights the rise, fall, and restructuring of the export processing garment industry in the Dominican Republic. The first decade of the 2000s saw [End Page 253] a major global restructuring of the garment industry that negatively impacted low-wage assembly, leading to restructuring away from merely assembly to "full-package" suppliers that expanded into other value-added components of production including design, cloth production, and some finishing aspects. Adopting feminist approaches, the author analyzes increased gender inequality as females tended to remain in the lowest-wage assembly jobs while males predominated in the newer value-added positions due to cultured gender stereotypes, both locally and globally, that viewed females as unfit for more flexible or labor intensive activities (which is debated well in the text). Relatedly, female labor has been devalued and became more disposable with higher layoffs, although the author acknowledges that male labor also suffered during restructuring, just to a lesser and different degree.
After the structural analysis of global factors resulting in national and local gender inequalities in employment, the author turns to individual examples of livelihood strategies created by both women and men stemming from massive layoffs in the mid-to-late 2000s. This section of the book addresses gender and racial differences in post-free-trade-zone employment, underemployment, unemployment, and informal activities in both urban areas and the rural countryside. The author expertly presents individual experiences in highlighting the gendered and racialized differences in livelihood strategies sought in order to create personal "social worth," a process the author terms "embodied negotiations" (p. 87).
The latter sections of the book turn to the relational geography between the Dominican Republic and Haiti in restructuring the garment industry as a "spatial fix" akin to David Harvey's concept (p. 114). Dominican and U.S. corporations shifted their involvement from the Dominican Republic to the Haitian border and, after the 2010 earthquake, further along the northern coast of Haiti to access cheaper labor. The ties to Naomi Klein's "disaster capitalism" in this section is an insightful addition. After the earthquake, Haiti's World Bank and IMF Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, which called for a focus on agricultural development, was shelved as international institutions and corporate interests focused national development on export-oriented free-trade zones. However, the free-trade zones faced substantial contestation from labor groups that problematized the projects, which was another insightful and well-crafted section of the book.
Building on these disparate results and experiences the author mentions a few alternatives championed to resolve the negative impacts restructuring and global production have on local livelihoods. Ethical consumption, including such movements as fair trade and other certifications, are argued to be inadequate as they are still embedded in colonial capitalist exploitation and modern uneven capitalist development. Instead, collective worker struggles through unions...