Clarke, Marlea

Assistant Professor


Phone number: (250) 721-6487
Department: Political Science

Research description:

-African Politics (South and Southern Africa focus)
-Political economy of development
-Global garment industry; commodity chains
-Employment and labour market restructuring
-Globalisation and democratisation in Africa
-Gender and politics

Expertise Profile

Political scientist Marlea Clarke studies the contemporary garment industry in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Clarke explores the integration of sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries into globalised apparel networks since the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) in 2004 and related backward linkages to textiles and cotton production. Her work also examines labour standards for workers, especially women workers, in these regional production networks within Africa by analyzing commodity chains--the process of gathering resources and producing commodities for consumers. She links African retailers who source garments in Africa to textile and garment producers in the region, and traces the backward linkages to the cotton industry. It helps her understand how African clothing producers integrate into regional and global networks.

Dr. Clarke hopes that this research will help improve labour conditions in SSA regional production networks and contribute to the more ethical sourcing practices here in Canada and elsewhere.

Clothing production for export has been an important launching pad for industrial development in many countries, especially for the East Asian 'tigers' in the early stages of their development. Similarly, the industry has been central to economic growth and employment for the few African countries that developed a strong apparel industry during the period of the MFA. Now, other African countries have recently begun to focus on manufacturing clothing for export, and believe that the industry is important to their industrialisation strategies, and to employment creation and economic growth. "Who is benefiting from expanding production of garments in sub-Saharan Africa? How can African producers expand production without trapping workers in low waged jobs with poor working conditions?" questions Dr. Clarke.

Since joining UVic, Dr. Clarke has introduced a number of new courses--such as African politics, and the political economy of the global south--that relate to her research and excite students. She hopes to launch a new course on globalisation and work, focused on the global garment industry and other sectors, in the next few years.

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