Dr. Sanchita Banerjee Saxena is the Executive Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies (Institute) at UC Berkeley and the Director of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies under the Institute. She is the editor of Labor, Global Supply Chains, and the Garment Industry in South Asia: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza (Routledge, 2020) and author of Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka: The Labor Behind the Global Garments and Textiles Industries (Cambria Press, 2014). Dr. Saxena has been a Practitioner Resident at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy and a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. She frequently gives invited lectures and publishes commentaries in the popular media. Dr. Saxena holds a PhD in political science from UCLA.

Who Makes our Clothes? The Invisibility of Labor in the Global Garments Industry

Using the Rana Plaza tragedy on April 24, 2013 as a starting point, Dr. Saxena will examine the strategies used by Western companies to strictly monitor and inspect a portion of Bangladesh’s registered factories, hoping to prevent future disasters. This move by Western brands has been touted as unprecedented and innovative, and while these organizations have made some important progress, Dr. Saxena argues that the strategies employed over the last seven years have made limited strides in improving the lives and conditions of the thousands of workers in the sector. In effect, focusing only on monitoring factories as a solution obscures the extreme pressures suppliers face from brands to produce large quantities, at the lowest price, and in the shortest time possible; these are all factors which contribute to keeping conditions poor. In order to prevent horrific tragedies like Rana Plaza from occurring in the future, larger flaws in the global chain must be addressed with the hope that this will change the way business is conducted, and reduce the incentives of factory owners to take deadly risks in order to meet the demands of their clients.