537.2 Knowledge production and counter-expertise in transnational anti-sweatshop networks

Friday, August 3, 2012: 12:40 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Marcos ANCELOVICI , Sociology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Alex MOCHNACKI , Sociology, McGill University, QC, Canada
Global supply chains linking suppliers in developing countries to lead brands and retailers in developed countries are incredibly complex and sometimes secretive.  Therefore, collecting data to identify the relevant actors and points of leverage “requires the skills of a detective as much as a researcher” (Barrientos 2002: 61). This paper takes this complexity seriously and asks the following questions: How do participants in transnational antisweatshop networks know what they know about the state of working conditions in developing countries?  How do they identify critical issues as well as the players and the points of leverage in global supply chains?  How do they produce the information and expertise they use to attempt to improve working conditions overseas?  What is the role of workers, academics, and NGOs in this process?  This paper draws upon social movement studies, science studies, and the sociology of intellectuals so as to emphasize the “thinking work” of social movements and treat them as producers of knowledge and counter-expertise.  It will address the above questions concretely by comparing the way in which the Worker Rights Consortium in the United States and the Clean Clothes Campaign in Western Europe have been producing the knowledge and expertise that have allowed them to effectively challenge lead brands and retailers in the global apparel and footwear industry.