Rebecca Prentice is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. Her research on garment workers in Trinidad was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), and the Royal Anthropological Institute.
Factory Work, Illicit Labor, and Neoliberal Subjectivities in Trinidad
The book prize committee of the Society for the Anthropology of Work has selected Rebecca Prentice's Thiefing A Chance: Factory Work, Illicit Labor, and Neoliberal Subjectivities in Trinidad (University Press of Colorado) as the 2015 winner.
The study stands out for its detailed descriptions of work in the production of high-end fashions for the regional clothing market. The author worked alongside the women in the factory, learning how they were 'into the sewing' (proud of their skills) as they seized the time, materials, designs, and techniques for making clothing to sell on their own. Reflecting the Trinidadian ethic of thiefing a chance, 'these illicit activities are uniquely valorized, not as "everyday resistance" to the hegemonic interests of employers but instead as the embodiment of an enterprising ethos.'
Richly contextualized ethnographically, this bottom-up approach to neoliberal economic development builds on previous research in the anthropology of work, especially on women's employment in assembly plants and on the importance of race, ethnicity, and class in the history of Caribbean labor formations.