Gender, markets, and the Global South

Following Butler (1988), it is useful to explore a performative lens of gender and understand how markets in the global south structure performances of gender. In contrast to the performative perspective on gender, perspectives based on psychological beliefs work with attributes such as confidence, assessment of self and others, willingness to collaborate with people from the other gender and the internalisation of stereotypes (Bordalo, Coffman, Gennaioli and Shleifer, 2019). Perspectives based on psychological beliefs assume the a priori existence of stereotypes or differences in confidence. On the other hand, performative perspectives on gender contend that stereotypes need to be repetitively and discursively performed for them to be tenable. Consequently, stereotypes are never absolute and there are multiple discursive gaps where intervention is possible.

Issues of gender must be considered in the light of democratic deficits in global governance regimes, particularly in institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (Soederberg, 2006). Powerful countries in the global north dominate the shareholding structure and voting rights in these institutions which shape the nature of markets in the global south. Corporate engagement emerging from global governance mechanisms have been described as embodying gendered forms of neocoloniality (Ozkazanc-Pan, 2019). Corporate engagement with policy in the global south has the potential to enact state capture exacerbating issues of job losses, inequality and erosion of citizenship rights (Plagerson, Patel, Hochfeld and Ulriksen, 2019). The current global policy consensus has produced a large category of disposable workers, most of whom are women working in precarious conditions in the informal economy in the global south (Fagertun, 2017).

In the context of gendered forms of inequality in the global south, Byatt (2018) argues that neoliberal capital has appropriated feminism to advance the extraction of surplus. Byatt contends that neoliberal capital relies on the indebtedness of women in the global south to propose their access to financial markets through microfinance institutions to increase their purchasing power. Neoliberal capital uses the fetish of female empowerment to advance discourses of female entrepreneurialism to introduce women to networks of production and consumption which rely on notions of an enterprising capitalist self. In the process, other alternatives based on feminist solidarity and articulating a stance of resistance against neoliberal capital are interrupted. Feminist solidarity, coloniality and neoliberal capital stand in a relationship of complex ethical and cultural tension in many marketplaces in the global south such as that of surrogate motherhood where women in the global south are willing to act as surrogates for parents in the global north (Deckha 2015).

While women’s participation in markets in the global south signifies several ethical tensions and social relations of inequality, there are several attempts by women to resist neoliberal capital. Chandrasekara (2009) outlines how Sri Lankan women resist forces of global finance by participating in traditional communities of finance and solidarity that create social wealth. Womens’ resistance against neoliberal capital takes complex turns as a range of factors inform such as spatial mobility, cultural and economic independence and access to resources inform the outcomes of resistance (Temudo, 2018). In Philippines, womens’ movements have taken militant turns to contest the globalisation of neoliberal capital and target the national state to ensure that the market based marginalisation of women is reversed (Lindio-McGovern, 2007). Womens’ movements have contended that neoliberal capital has led to a stratified political economy where the global south is subordinated to the interests of the elite in the global north, and women occupy the lowest rung of the hierarchy in the markets in the global south.

In the light of the marginalisation of women in markets in the global south, and womens’ resistance against marginalisation, contributions can explore a range of issues. Some indicative issues are provided below. These are by no means exhaustive, and contributors can make interventions that touch upon other issues that are central to the theme.

1. How do intersections of caste, race, class and gender inform women’s participation in markets in the global south?

2. What are the different forms in which neoliberal capital transforms markets in gendered ways in the global south?

3. What are different marketplaces that have opened up with the advancement of technology that structure ethical and political tensions related to the incorporation of women’s bodies in these marketplaces?

4. How has neoliberal capital structured inequality for women in the context of markets in the global south?

5. How has the discourse of women’s empowerment been discursively co-opted by neoliberal equality to insert women in unequal ways in markets in the global south?

6. What are new organisational and institutional forms through which neoliberal capital incorporates women into markets in the global south?

7. How do women construct social relations of solidarity to resist neo-colonial forms of inequality that prevail in markets in the global south?

8. How do womens’ resistance discursively construct agendas to resist multiple forms of inequality that marginalise them?

9. How can gender and markets in the global south understood in terms of space, economic and cultural autonomy?

10. How do womens’ movements engage with other social movements to democratise markets in the global south?

Queries related to this track may be addressed to Professor Srinath Jagannathan:


Bordalo, P., Coffman, K., Gennaioli, K. and Shleifer, A. (2019). Beliefs about gender. American Economic Review, 109(3), 739-773.  

Butler, J. (1988). Performative acts and gender constitution: an essay in phenomenology and feminist theory. Theatre Journal, 40, 519-531.  

Byatt, B. (2018). The case of Kiva and Grameen: towards a Marxist feminist critique of ‘smart economics’. Capital and Class, 42(3), 403-409. 

Chandrasekara, I. (2009). Why is finance critical? A dialogue with a women’s community in Sri Lanka. ephemera, 9(4), 300-317.  

Deckha, M. (2015). Situating Canada’s commercial surrogacy ban in a transnational context: A postcolonial feminist call for legalization and public funding. McGill Law Journal, 61(1), 31-86.  

Fagertun, A. (2017). Localising globalisation: gendered transformations of work in emergent economies. Journal of Development Studies, 53(3), 311-315.  

Lindio-McGovern, L. (2007). Neo-liberal globalization in the Phillipines: its impact on Filipino women and their forms of resistance. Journal of Developing Societies, 23(1-2), 15-35.  

Ozkazanc-Pan, B. (2019). CSR as gendered neocoloniality in the global south. Journal of Business Ethics, 160(4), 851-864.  

Plagerson, S., Patel, L., Hochfeld, T. and Ulriksen, M. S. (2019). Social policy in South Africa: navigating the route to social development. World Development, 113, 1-19.  

Soederberg, S. (2006). Global Governance in Question: Empire, Class and the New Common Sense in Managing North-South Relations. London: Pluto Press.  

Temudo, M. P. (2018). Men wielding the plough: changing patterns of production and reproduction among the Balanta of Guinea-Bissau. Journal of Agrarian Change, 18(2), 267-280.  

Built with Mobirise web creator