Project

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A Global History of Export Processing Zones (1947-2007)

Applicant Gerlach Christian
Number 126642
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Historisches Institut Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.03.2010 - 30.04.2012
Approved amount 251'579.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
General history (without pre-and early history)
Ethnology

Keywords (19)

Globalisation; Development; World Trade; Industrialisation; International Organisations; Labour; Sovereignty; Gender; Capitalism; Export Processing Zones; Global History; Global Economic History; Social Anthropology; Neoliberalism; Flexible Accumulation; Asia; Latin America; Africa; Europe

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Nation-states establishing Export Processing Zones (EPZs) grant tax and customs holidays to investors and labour laws often differ from national laws, limiting trade union operation and workers' rights, whilst investors are further attracted by ready-for-use industrial estates, built on already limited national budgets. In light of these significant structurations of capital-labour-state relations, our project is concerned with the interactions of economists, national parliaments and bureaucracies, corporations and workers' organisations in the zones' conceptual framings and real world negotiations of social and economic relations.In 2007, the International Labour Organisation counted 3.500 EPZs in more than 130 nations employing more than 60 million people worldwide, making the zones central places of global manufacturing. High street shoppers will hardly find any garments or consumer electronics that have not been assembled in EPZs and it is no surprise that the Anti-Sweatshop campaigns focused on EPZs particularly whereas international organisations often promote them as an ideal tool to create export-led development. Although such debates seem of recent quality, the closer look at the zones' history we will pursue will show the regular upsurge of such debates about global exchange patterns and labour-state-capital.The world's first EPZ was established in the US dependency of Puerto Rico. The second zone that followed in 1959 was set up on the world's first duty-free airport in Shannon, Ireland. In the 1960s and 1970s, India, Mexico and those nations later known as the Asian Tiger states followed, and China opened its first zone in 1979. This coincided with the decline of the textile, garment and consumer electronics industries in advanced Western countries - a process that in the 1970s shaped the notion of a post-industrial/Post-Fordist era in these countries at a time of increasing industrialisation in other parts of the world.The project's aim is informed by the lack of a concise historical account of the global spread of EPZs. Secondly, as the structure of the global economy come under scrutiny with the most recent crisis, it is important to aim for a refined understanding of the emergence of the economic structures that shape the present. EPZs are one of the most striking phenomena of post World War II global economic integration. The zones' global spread thus offers an ideal entry point into a more elaborate periodisation of globalisation as it is a history of the continuous contestation of an emerging global pattern of accumulation between corporations, international organisations, nation-states, trade unions, global movements and workers.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Hope's Global Systemic Paradox
Neveling Patrick (2016), Hope's Global Systemic Paradox, in Voices from Around the World, 4, 2.
A periodisation of globalisation according to the Mauritian integration into the international sugar commodity chain (1825-2005)
Neveling Patrick (2012), A periodisation of globalisation according to the Mauritian integration into the international sugar commodity chain (1825-2005), in Commodities of Empire, Working Paper Series, 29-29.
Die Dekonstruktion von Traditionen als Macht- und Klassenfrage – Eine Präzisierung des Erfindungsparadigmas
Neveling Patrick, Klien Susanne (2012), Die Dekonstruktion von Traditionen als Macht- und Klassenfrage – Eine Präzisierung des Erfindungsparadigmas, in Faschingeder Gerald (ed.), Promedia, Wien, 231-246.
Einleitende Überlegungen: Wissen um Veränderung - Entwicklung, Geschichte, sozialer Wandel
Patrick Neveling (2010), Einleitende Überlegungen: Wissen um Veränderung - Entwicklung, Geschichte, sozialer Wandel, in Sociologus, 60(1), 1-14.
Introduction: Tradition within and beyond the framework of invention
Neveling Patrick, Klien Susanne (2010), Introduction: Tradition within and beyond the framework of invention, in Klien Susanne (ed.), OWZ-Hefte, Zentrum für interdisziplinäre regionalstudien, Halle/Saale, 1-52.
Sonderheft Sociologus Bd. 60/1: Wissen um Veränderung - Entwicklung, Geschichte, sozialer Wandel (Transl.: The Production of Knowledge about Change: Development, History, Social Transformation)
Patrick Neveling (2010), Sonderheft Sociologus Bd. 60/1: Wissen um Veränderung - Entwicklung, Geschichte, sozialer Wandel (Transl.: The Production of Knowledge about Change: Development, History, Social Transformation), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin.
The Salience of Traditions, Inventions and Global Integration Compared: Japan and the Mascarene Islands
Neveling Patrick, Klien Susanne (2010), The Salience of Traditions, Inventions and Global Integration Compared: Japan and the Mascarene Islands, in Klien Susanne (ed.), OWZ-Hefte, Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Regionalstudien, Halle/Saale, 53-68.
Tourism and Scale
Wergin Carsten, Neveling Patrick (2010), Tourism and Scale, in Anthropology News, 51(8), 3-4.
Tradition within and beyond the framework of invention: Case studies from the Mascarenes and Japan
Klien Susanne (ed.) (2010), Tradition within and beyond the framework of invention: Case studies from the Mascarenes and Japan, OWZ-Hefte, Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Regionalstudien, Halle/Saale.
Vom Nutzen der Geschichte, vom Wissen der Akteure und vom Nachteil der Multi-Sited Ethnography - Welthandel, Wirtschaftskrise und Standortwettbewerb in Mauritius Anfang des 21. Jahrhunderts
Patrick Neveling (2010), Vom Nutzen der Geschichte, vom Wissen der Akteure und vom Nachteil der Multi-Sited Ethnography - Welthandel, Wirtschaftskrise und Standortwettbewerb in Mauritius Anfang des 21. Jahrhunderts, in Sociologus, 60(1), 71-97.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Department of Anthropology, Central European University, Budapest Hungary (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Fakultät für Ökonomie und Sozialwissenschaften Slovakia (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Paul Baroich Institute of Economic History, Universität Genf Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Institut für Ethnologie, Universität Halle Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Südasien Institut, Heidelberg Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Institut für Sozialanthropologie, Universität Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung, Bonn Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien, Tokyo Japan (Asia)
- Publication
Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures, Manchester University Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Department of Anthropology, Universität Kopenhagen Denmark (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Lecture Series „Ethnographic Perspectives on Work and Labour“, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics Individual talk Alienating and De-Alienating Labour in Times of Crisis: Case Studies from the Mauritian Textile and Garment Sector 16.05.2012 London, Großbritannien, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Neveling Patrick;
BSA Theory Group “Rethinking the Modern” Talk given at a conference The Imperialism of Free Trade Reloaded: Export Processing Zones as a Systemic Cycle of Accumulation, 1947-2007 10.07.2011 Birmingham, Großbritannien, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Neveling Patrick;
Kolloquium Neueste Geschichte und Zeitgeschichte, Historisches Institut, Universität Bern Individual talk Die UNIDO im Spannungsfeld von Neuer Wirtschaftsordnung und der ersten Boom Phase der Sonderwirtschaftszonen (1966-1986 13.04.2011 Bern, Schweiz, Switzerland Neveling Patrick;
Parallel Commodity Chains: Substitutes and Informal Economy Talk given at a conference Ralph Lauren’ Mauritian Style: Methodological and Epistemological Challenges in the Study of Competing Notions of Legality, ‘Liberty’ and Dependency within Global Commodity Chain 10.06.2010 Konstanz, BRD, Germany Neveling Patrick;
Kolloquium, Department for Anthropology, Comenius University Individual talk The Global Spread of Export Processing Zones - An Anthropological Approach to Global History since 1947 07.04.2010 Bratislawa, Slowakische Republik, Slovakia Neveling Patrick;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
140484 A Global History of Export Processing Zones (1947-2007), continued 01.08.2012 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Export processing zones (EPZs) have in recent research been identified as one of the main markers of a “graduated” national sovereignty that has emerged at the turn of the 21st century. Sovereignty is graduated in the zones because nation-states abstain from basic (postcolonial) rights such as taxation and the collection of customs duties in an effort to attract foreign and local direct investment. In 2007, there were 3500 EPZs operating in 130 countries worldwide competing with one another for investment. From different points of view, these zones have different advantages and disadvantages: Investors may welcome them as a global arena, where nation-states make a bid for capital investment. International organisations like UNIDO or ILO support the foundation of EPZs as promising ways into export-led development and employment in manufacturing. Workers and activists may regard the employer friendly and sometimes sexist and racist labour regimes at work in EPZs as paradigmatic for the scarification of workers rights to the laws of the market. Thus, the workings of these zones are closely related to topics very relevant in public debates as they concern the nexus of global capital flows and national sovereignty as well as the forms of distributing income and wealth created by worldwide economic activity.The proposed project on the global history of export processing zones seeks to make a crucial contribution to these debates particularly by combining the perspectives of global history, economic history and social anthropology. This links recent discussions in both disciplines that are concerned with issues like flexible accumulation, global shifts in regimes of production and the above outlined notions of graduated sovereignty. One of the central motivations to carry out research on EPZs is derived from the existence of numerous case studies on individual zones of which the proposed researcher has carried out one himself (in Mauritius). The detailed nature of these individual case studies coincides with the lack of a concise and comparative publication on the zones’ general history. The last such study dates back to 1977 and was published under the title “The New International Division of Labor” by Fröbel, Heinrichs and Kreye. The project aims to fill the resulting gap employing present day research questions and methodologies. These will connect the historical emergence of EPZs with diverse notions of sovereignty and contestations of the economic regimes and respective morals in practice. Therefore, the emergence and mutation of practices and discourses are traced from the foundation of the world’s first EPZ in Puerto Rico in 1947 until 2007, when advances in the liberalisation and institutional integration of world trade under the WTO regime alongside with the first signs of the present global crisis marked a significant shift in the global trading system. Methodologies of global and economic history will be used to pool and analyse the archival records of the ILO, the UNDP, the UNIDO, the World Bank, the World Export Processing Zones Association, and the recently established World Federation of Free Zones. Besides these international organisations involved in the global spread of EPZs, six case studies of EPZs particularly relevant for a general history have been selected (plus the one on Mauritius already carried out). In Puerto Rico, Ireland, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Indonesia, and Madagascar archival records of national governments, parastatal bodies managing the EPZs, private sector organisations, multinational corporations, trade unions and newspapers will be consulted. The project aims at an appropriate representation of the historical process of embedding and reframing of EPZs in institutional and public practices and discourses. The project results will be published as a monograph and contribute to debates on the structure of world trade in the fields of global and economic history and social anthropology as well as to the general public’s interest in the global phenomenon of EPZs.
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