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Commercialisation, Commodification and Gender Relations in Post-Harvest Systems for Rice in South Asia

Barbara Harriss-White
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 40, No. 25 (Jun. 18-24, 2005), pp. 2530-2542
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4416782
Page Count: 13
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Commercialisation, Commodification and Gender Relations in Post-Harvest Systems for Rice in South Asia
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Abstract

When the output of a product that forms the basis of subsistence and social reproduction - as rice is for Asia - expands, the marketed surplus rises disproportionately to the growth rate of production. This implies that activities that once formed part and parcel of household labour activity (performed by women - even if under the control of men) also become commercialised. Food security depends not only on the market, but also on the social and political structures within which markets are situated. One of these social structures is gender. Two aspects of this gendered process are explored in this essay, the first being 'productive deprivation'. Using field evidence from south Asia, the impact of technological change is shown to be strongly net labour displacing and strongly biased against female labour. At the same time, poverty ensures the persistence of petty commodity production, where women are either self-employed or 'unwaged' family workers. As seen in the case of rice production in West Bengal, growth in production has been accompanied by the displacement of women from the rice mill labour forces in which economies of scale have been pitched against unwaged work in petty production.

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