Inspired by the Marxist feminist thinking of women’s “productive” and “reproductive” labour in this paper I attempt to unbundle the multiply interacting labour roles of female estate and apparel workers as they work within the third world (postcolonial) context of Sri Lanka. 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. As such my paper unfolds as a “storytelling ethnography” where I narrate the daily life struggles of these female workers as they strive to balance the often conflicting demands on their labour as waged (productive) workers in the estate/factory and unwaged (reproductive) workers at home. Exploring the daily lives of female estate and apparel workers through the duel analytical lenses of Marxist feminism, 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.


Reproductive Labour, Female Workers, Marxist Feminism, Feminist Ethnography, Third World

Author Bio(s)

Prajna Seneviratne is a Senior Lecturer in Critical Human Resource Management at Department of Management in the Open University of Sri Lanka. Her research interests are women’s (re)productive labour, Marxist and postcolonial feminist analysis and feminist research methodologies. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: prajnalk@yahoo.com.

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