Restitching Identities in Rural Sri Lanka

Restitching Identities in Rural Sri Lanka

Gender, Neoliberalism, and the Politics of Contentment

by Sandya Hewamanne

  • Hardcover
  • 9780812252408
  • Published: September 2020



Sandya Hewamanne's Stitching Identities in a Free Trade Zone analyzed how female factory workers in Sri Lanka's free trade zones challenged conventional notions about marginalized women at the bottom of the global economy. In Restitching Identities in Rural Sri Lanka Hewamanne now follows many of these same women to explore the ways in which they negotiate their social and economic lives once back in their home villages. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted over fifteen years, the book explores how the former free-trade-zone workers manipulate varied forms of capital—social, cultural, and monetary— to become local entrepreneurs and community leaders, while simultaneously initiating gradual changes in rural social hierarchies and gender norms.

Free trade zones introduce Sri Lankan women to neoliberal ways of fashioning selves, Hewamanne contends. Her book illustrates how varied manifestations of neoliberal attitudes within local contexts result in new articulations of what it is to be an entrepreneur as well as a good woman. By focusing on how former workers decenter neoliberal market relations while using their entrepreneurial and civic activities to reimagine social life in ways more satisfying to them and their loved ones—what the author calls a politics of contentment—the book sheds light on new political possibilities in contexts where both reproduction of neoliberal economic relations and implementation of alternatives co-exist.