Ozkazanc-Pan (2018) CSR as Gendered Neocoloniality

Addresses how corporate social responsibility perpetuates gendered neo-colonial relations between the Global North and Global South, that in turn allows the continued exploitation of workers in the Global South, while denying the agency of workers. Does this in the context of the Accord and Rana Plaza. Click here

Notes I done made (these were made when researching my dissertation topic so not everything in the paper will be included here, just bits that were relevant for me and points I found interesting):

  • Global South is spoken for and about in Western texts by privileged academics -> academic colonialism. Their voices are silenced despite being prominent in the global marketplace for low wage labour -> unequal power relations between West and the rest (I think I may have come up with this rhyme).
  • There’s a need for strategic essentialism -> forming alliances while acknowledging differences

Neocolonial discourse and relations

  • In Colonial India, the Bengal was responsible for exporting raw materials and products to British Empire- British exploitation of these resources
  • to counter colonial exploitation and rule, elites in BD adopted neoliberal ideologies and methods
  • Colonial rule prepared institutions needed for international capitalism in the neocolonial period
  • neocolonial phase: class alliance between local BD elites and foreign corporations.
  • Increased social inequality caused by distortion of economic structure under colonialism- result of the subordination of the local economy to developed capitalist economies and dependency on overseas markets for export -> perpetuates neocolonial relations, as BD becomes dependent on work from MNCs for development
  • Because BD is dependent on USA to purchase its exports, so US corporations have increased power to dictate terms of relationship with suppliers, manufacturers etc
  • The state faces a loss of trade if they don’t adhere to Western labour norms and practices, so Western brands can dictate how the countries in the Global South participates in the economy.
  • CSR practices from Global North replicate colonial hierarchies and relations in the Global South through relations of difference and power
  • CSR is a form of colonial relations that benefit local and global elites, Western MNCs and developed capitalist economies
  • CSR raises allows the maintenance of gender and economic oppression from colonial past- replicates gendered coloniality, where female workers become dependent and subjugated in poor working conditions with little agency

Gendered and Subaltern agency under CSR

  • CSR an example of neo-colonial rights discourse- rights imposed on gendered subaltern agents without agency (no negotiation takes places with female workers)
  • Rights and conditions workers must work under are dictated to them, CSR doesn’t engage in issues of lack of subaltern agency in relation to MNC production and profit motives.
  • Codes therefore regulate the behaviours of the gendered subaltern subject: the female factory worker
  • Governments of the Global South support working conditions imposed by Western MNCs, so women workers’ voices silenced
  • Voluntary codes of conduct today don’t challenge the conditions of women, only minimally effective, women still in a structurally inferior position
  • Having more women in union leadership won’t change structural position of BD being dependent on Western developed nations.
  • Support for CSR initiatives developed by MNCs can reproduce neo-colonial dependencies-> depends on local patriarchy and gender relations
  • CSR does not engage with subaltern agency, continues gendered coloniality as women become subjugated to new means of control by MNCs
  • CSR represents claims about the gendered subaltern produced by MNCs with support from governments, NGOs, and  local elites, leaving power relations intact but not addressing them

Gendering CSR

  • CSR can support the erasure of histories, experiences and organising of women, which are hidden under the Wests ‘development’ rhetoric, while offering ethical consumerism as a solution
  • Discussions and initiatives revolving around MNC actions in the Global South insufficient to address gender-based inequalities- need discussions around the role of gendered neo-colonial relations

Subaltern agency

  • CSR gives credibility to MNCs claim to authority or legitimacy in defining the problem and offering solutions while ensuring the erasure of subaltern agency e.g. Rana Plaza, problem was defined as a safety lapse, with the solution being to improve workers rights for working conditions. This is described as ‘epistemic violence’ as this leaves little room for alternate interpretations e.g. gendered globalised capitalism vs safety lapse.
  • Need to attend to subaltern agency- workers having a voice and power in shaping what gets constituted as CSR

Toward New Conversations

  • Political CSR -> where corporations are turning into political actors, acting in spheres of influence.
    • deliberation and public discourse used as a measure of how ethical corporations utilising PCSR are
    • but this  ignores gendered neo-colonial relations taking shape under ‘globalised capitalism’ via neoliberal policies
    • PCSR focuses on ethical behaviour/ethics as an engagement with multi-stakeholder CSR initiatives for social development, focus on deliberation


  • Need insight into different lives and experiences of women
  • Active questioning of ways subjects are deemed in need of intervention
  • CSR creates its desired subjects then acts on its behalf, need to move from ethics from ‘doing the right thing’ to ‘openness toward the imagined agency of the other’
  • Agency needs to be the new conversation in regards to ethics and responsibility


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