Situating Corporate Framings Of Child Labor: Toward Grounded Geographies Of Working Children In Globalized Agriculture

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Child labor -- India, Multinational corporations, Agriculture, Children -- India -- Economic conditions, Cotton growing


The expansion of multinational corporations into agricultural production around the world is resulting in new forms of engagement in specific places. In the context of neoliberal restructuring, these engagements are tied to shifting landscapes of societal, governmental and industry-based perceptions on the role of corporations in labor regimes. But how are these engagements developed and how do they connect to the everyday lives of workers? In India, when Monsanto expanded into hybrid cotton seed production in the early 2000s, the corporation came under pressure to address concerns over the widespread employment of children and young workers for seed pollination. In response, the corporation developed an approach to child labor that, I argue, works to reinforce generalized and problematic notions of childhood and work. Corporate engagements in global agriculture need to be situated in time and space, and alongside the experiences of workers. Children experience attempts to shape their patterns of work and mobility as a series of surmountable obstacles, disconnected from the process of deciding whether or not they will engage in this work. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and documentary analysis of public documents, I outline the development of a corporate response to child labor and place it within the context of the rise of corporate social responsibility, global ideas of child labor, and in the specific case of cotton seed production in western India. I demonstrate that contextualized geographies of working children in globalized agriculture reveal the nature of multinational corporations’ engagements in specific places.


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