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A study of ethnicity, gender, and class as integral elements of class structure

Producing Power

Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in a Caribbean Workplace

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Kevin A. Yelvington

"With a lively interplay of theory and ethnography, Producing Power reaches the high watermark of Caribbean studies. Anthropologists and social scientists hungry for texts that contextualize ethnicity will find in Yelvington's work the keen insight and sensitivity necessary to document the ways ethnicity, gender, and class are defined and revised in relation to one another as they influence the production process."
David Griffith, East Carolina University

In a small, locally owned Trinidadian factory that produces household goods, 80 percent of the line workers are women, almost all black or East Indian. The supervisors are all men, either white or East Indian. Kevin Yelvington worked for a year in this factory to study how ethnicity and gender are integral elements of the class structure, a social and economic structure that permeates all relations between men and women in the factory. These primary divisions determine the way the production process is ordered and labor divided.

Unlike women in other industries in "underdeveloped" parts of the world who are recruited by foreign firms, Caribbean women have always contributed to the local economy. Within this historical context, Yelvington outlines the development of the state, and addresses exploitation and domination in the labor process. Yelvington also documents the sexually charged interactions between workers and managers and explores how both use flirting and innuendo to their advantage. Weddings and other social events outside the factory provide insightful details about how the creation of social identities carries over to all aspects of the local culture.

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Excerpt

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"Kevin Yelvington's astute participant observer eyes allow the reader to venture onto the factory floor and listen to workers, particularly women workers, to management, and to the owner. Another valuable aspect is Yelvington's sophisticated, in-depth theoretical discussion of race and class in Trinidad. The richness of this work rests on the interplay of sound ethical fieldwork, and superior theory building. Yelvington carefully interprets factory workers words, insights, philosophical treatises, wit, charm, and everyday lives. Moving from trade union busting efforts to birthday celebrations, the workplace becomes a site of contestation for power and various forms of cultural identity."
A. Lynn Bolles, Department of Women's Studies University of Maryland

"In this volume, Kevin Yelvington undertakes an ambitious project: to examine class, race, and gender inequalities as facets of the same unitary structure by contrast to earlier approaches that envisioned capitalism and patriarchy as separate systems. The result is a richly textured analysis which succeeds where others have failed.... [H]e reveals the strains between the intentions of workers and those of employers, between resistance and compliance, between pleasure and alienation.... [T]he book provides a model for research and analysis whose implications are far reaching."
M. Patricia Fernández-Kelly, from the Foreword

"Producing Power is, overall, a welcome addition to studies focusing on the conditions of women's work in the Caribbean in particular, and in the developing world in general. It is, as well, an innovative contribution to the literature on the intersection, interaction, and dialectic reproduction of ethnicity, class, and gender under capitalist forms of production."
Gender and Society

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Contents

List of Tables and Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Forewords – M. Patricia Fernández-Kelly
Introduction
1. Ethnicity, Gender, Class, and the Politics of Power
2. Locating the Ethnography in History, Economy, and Society
3. The Site of Production: A Trinidadian Factory
4. Ethnicity at Work
5. Gender at Work
6. Class at Work
Conclusion
Appendix: The EUL Supervisors and Line Workers
Notes
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

Kevin A. Yelvington teaches anthropology at the University of South Florida and is editor of Trinidad Ethnicity.

Subject Categories

Anthropology
Latin American/Caribbean Studies

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