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Narratives, Lamai and Female Labour: (re)narrating the untold story of HRM in Sri Lanka’s apparel industry

By Sudath Dhammika Weeratunga Jayawardena


This thesis explores the formation of female shopfloor workers’ collective identity in the Global South. It raises the question of why female shopfloor workers in Sri Lanka’s apparel industry are called lamai (little ones) and what role HRM plays in this process – of (un)doing the workers’ collective identity as lamai. It revisits the identity construction process by locating it beyond the organizational actors’ work-identity narratives. By (re)conceptualizing HRM as a ‘web of texts’it problematizes the rhetoric–reality dualism in HRM and so dissects the role of the language(s) of HRM in the formation of work identities. For this the thesis embarks on a reading journey, informed by poststructuralist discourse analysis, and renarrates (un)doing the lamai identity as in different texts which it generates in multiple research settings in Sri Lanka’s apparel industry. During this journey it shows how (un)doing the lamai identity becomes a ‘collective burden’ of actors in both wider society as well as the industry itself. It argues that the lamai identity is a ‘double-bind’ phenomenon which amalgamates the workers’ gender and their class in order to form a third ‘object’ – i.e., childrenized female labour – out of fusion with the signifier lamai. So it elucidates how the same signifier lamai marks the workers’ resistance to doing their identity as lamai while at the same time doing the identity itself. In conclusion, the thesis argues that doing female shopfloor workers’ collective identity as lamai creates an ethical paradox within which adult workers become lamai. It nonetheless shows how this childrenization process is legitimized by the language(s) of HRM. Therefore, it concludes that the language(s) of HRM is not rhetoric but an inextricable part of the reality of HRM

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9967

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