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Journal Article

The Reproduction of Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and the Social Organization of Work at Sites of Large-Scale Development Projects

Yvonne A. Braun
Social Problems
Vol. 58, No. 2 (May 2011), pp. 281-303
DOI: 10.1525/sp.2011.58.2.281
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/sp.2011.58.2.281
Page Count: 23
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The Reproduction of Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and the Social Organization of Work at Sites of Large-Scale Development Projects
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Abstract

Large-scale dam and infrastructure projects remain common and controversial means toward development and poverty reduction in the Global South. Development authorities often promote employment of local people as part of development and as a promise made to “sell” projects locally. Are these promises of employment fulfilled? And what are the race, class, and gendered consequences of the employment practices implemented at the sites of large-scale development projects? How the social organization of work at the sites of large-scale development projects may create and constitute particular dynamics of inequality has been understudied. This article analyzes the social organization of work at one dam site of a large-scale multidam infrastructure development project, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in 1997 and 2000–2002 in two communities proximate to Katse Dam, I center my analysis on the social organization of work with two goals: first, I render visible the gendered, classed, and raced ways that bodies and labor are organized in the context of this megaproject, both producing and constituting global and local inequalities; and, second, I show how masculinities are mobilized hierarchically to privilege an international hegemonic masculinity over local masculinities, and how the gender order is largely maintained by excluding women from the “privileges” of development through keeping women second-class citizens. These conclusions raise critical questions regarding how work is organized at the sites of large-scale development projects, and suggest we give greater attention to how the sites of development may reproduce inequalities based in race, class, gender, and global status.

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