Were they ever ‘in place'? Sense of place and self-identities among migrant female export-processing zone workers in Sri lanka

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Abstract:

The study explores how women's sense of place and self-identities have changed and been shaped through their lived experiences at different places as a result of their migration from their rural home village to an urban export-processing zone (EPZ). Past and present experiences at home and in the home village, opportunities and various forms of harassment in the Katunayake export-processing zone (KEPZ) in Sri Lanka, and, most significantly, the images that society has of female factory workers and of the KEPZ area influence the female EPZ workers' sense of place and self-identities. It is shown that their sense of place and self-identities vary according to length of employment in the EPZ, their age and their participation in organizational activities. Some women feel ‘out of place' both in their home village and in the KEPZ area, since they are not recognized as a part of a particular society and thus lack the self-confidence to face their future. Some women attempt to secure positive benefits from their factory jobs regardless of their negative experiences. The study concludes that there is not a single sense of place or self-identity because identities change over time according to peoples' lived experiences in particular places.

Keywords: Sri Lanka; export-processing zone; female workers; migrants; self-identity; sense of place

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00291950600891778

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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