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Producing and (re) producing? An ethnograpic narrative of femal plantation and apparel workers of Sri Lanka

Producing and (re) producing? An ethnograpic narrative of femal plantation and apparel workers of Sri Lanka
S J M Prajna U Seneviratne


School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UNITED KINGDOM.


In this journey of “storytelling ethnography” I set out to narrate the stories of “tea pluckers” and “sewing girls”, as they struggle to combine their productive and reproductive labour working within the third world/postcolonial context of Sri Lanka. While placing my thesis within a theoretical framework of Marxist and postcolonial feminist thinking, I do not take these theories as given but attempt to explain the extent to which such thinking is reflective of the interactions of women’s productive and reproductive labour as happens within these specific work regimes. Drawing on the belief that “knowledge” of women’s lives should be grounded in and informed by the material politics of everyday life, especially the daily life struggles for survival of women themselves, I employ ethnography from a feminist perspective as the prime methodological approach of this study. Through developing a reflection of my own methodological approach I argue that doctrines of ethnography as a feminist method of research developed by western writers is not fully reflective of the ethical political considerations as applied to third world/postcolonial locations like mine. Exploring and analyzing the daily lives of “tea pluckers” and “sewing girls” through the multiple lenses of class, gender and ethnicity I see these two groups of women, working under two different work regimes, as negotiating the multiple interactions of their productive and reproductive labour in diverse ways; closely interwoven with each other at times and completely separated from each other at others. Finally I see existing feminist thinking, specifically Marxist feminist thinking as not fully reflective of woman’s lives as lived within these settings and argue for a new integrated theoretical framework that see third world women workers as engaged in a continuous struggle against the oppressive structures surrounding their lives.