Globalisation and Rural Women's Paid Work in Turkey: A Case Study of the Production Chain of Rapana Venosa

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 61
Oral Presentation
Miki SUZUKI HIM , Sociology, Ondokuz Mayis University, Samsun, Turkey
Ayşe GÜNDÜZ HOşGÖR , Sociology, Middle East Technichal University, Ankara, Turkey
This study examines the production chain of Rapana Venosa (veined rapa whelk) and the socioeconomic statuses of women factory workers in this process. In rural areas of the Black Sea region in Turkey, women often participate in non-agricultural production. The production of veined rapa whelks is one of the sectors which rural women are especially employed. Veined rapa whelks are "marine invaders" which migrated from Far East Asian seas to the Black Sea by ballast water in the 1940s. Today, they are considered to be threatening the Black Sea’s ecological balance by consuming large numbers of bivalves. In the context of globalising marine ecosystem and multinationalising agrifood production, rapa whelks began to be exported from Turkey to Japan in the 1990s. While the prevalent catch method, algarna dredging, is known to be harmful for the reproduction of many native species, the exportation of rapa whelks is hoped to reduce their ecological pressure in the Black Sea and create employment opportunities for rural women. This study explores the use of rural women’s labour in the global production chain of rapa whelks between Japan and Turkey. The research was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, women workers’ socio-economic statuses were investigated through in-depth interviews with owners, managers and women workers of whelk-processing factories in two Middle Black Sea villages. A research in the second phase was conducted in summer 2012 in Tokyo and data regarding the production chain were collected mainly by interviews with an importer, a manufacturer and a retailor. Research findings suggest that the global Rapana Venosa production bears many characteristics of informal economy. The flexible production chain depends on rural women’s flexible, invisible and hence cheap labour while women develop new strategies to create a space of autonomy through paid work.