Hasan Ashraf

Hasan Ashraf works with the “Eating Bodies” team at Amsterdam University to finish his PhD thesis, which he started at Heidelberg University. He initially gave it the title “Transnational industrialisation and the genesis of stress among female garment factory workers in Bangladesh”. However, during his 15-month fieldwork in Dhaka (Bangladesh) none of the garment workers ever mentioned the word “stress”. Working in this highly regimented system of garment production nevertheless clearly co-produces ill health – workers commonly refer to this as deprecating bodies resulting from various kinds of chaap, a Bangla word denoting “pressure”, “anxiety” or “tension”. How this specific form of ill health is generated in Bangladesh along the axis of the transnational production chain and international fast-fashion with their shop floor practices and local socio-political relationships is the focus of his research project. Chaap runs through the whole production system, from international brands over factory owners to the individual worker. He traces it inside the policy and legal framework that enabled the “Neoliberal Turn” of the 1970s and integration of labour in the global market, observe it on the shop floor and explore how it erupts in large scale events of labour protests (and brute attempts to curb them) in garment production sites in Bangladesh. The mass consumption of apparel items in the wealthy countries of this world is based on the exploitation of the garment workers’ bodies. The workers’ ill health, however, is not treated as the result of the transnational production process and the chaap it entails but instead is seen as an individual failure. Here pharmaceutical companies enter the scene in whose business scheme the garment workers, among others, are a fast-growing group of customers for anxiolytic OTC drugs as a medical solution to an international political issue.