Dr. Marlea Clarke

Dr. Marlea Clarke
Associate Professor
Political Science
Office: DTB A344

PhD (2006) (York)

Area of expertise

Comparative politics, political economy of development, Global South (Africa)

Summer 2023 office hours: by appointment

Marlea Clarke (BA, University of Calgary; MA and PhD York University) is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. Prior to joining the department in 2010, she was a post-doctoral fellow and lecturer in Labour Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton (2005-08), and worked as an educational specialist with the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa (2009-10). Between 1996-2003 she lived in Southern Africa, where she worked as a researcher and educator, much of this time based at the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group (Institute of Development and Labour Law, University of Cape Town), where she remains affiliated as a Research Associate.

She specialises in Comparative politics and the Global South (Africa). Her broad research interests are globalisation, employment and labour market restructuring from a comparative and feminist political economy perspective. Her research has focused on African political economy and development, with a particular focus on post-colonial transitions to democracy, state and labour market restructuring, state-civil society relations, and labour movements and community resistance in South Africa in both contemporary and historical contexts. She welcomes the opportunity to work with graduate students interested in any of these areas of study.

Her published work includes contributions to Third World Quarterly; Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation; Canadian Journal of African Studies; Work, Employment and Society; and Law Democracy & Development. Dr. Clarke’s book (jointly authored with Wayne Lewchuk and Alice de Wolff) titled Working Without Commitments: The Health Impacts of Precarious Employment, examines the implications of rising precariousness in the contexts of social exclusion and workers’ health and well-being in Canada (Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2011).

She is the co-editor (with Carolyn Bassett) of two special issues of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies: ‘Legacies of Liberation: Post-colonial struggles for a democratic Southern Africa’ (2014) and ‘The struggle for transformation in South Africa: unrealized dreams, persistent hopes’ (2016).

She is currently working on a new project (2015-2020) funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) titled: Fast Fashion and decent work: labour standards in clothing production networks in sub-Saharan Africa. This project builds on her previous work on labour and global commodity chains to explore labour standards and emerging regional trade networks in the garment industry in sub-Saharan Africa.

In her free time she can be found cycling, backpacking or hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

  • Global / Regional Production Networks; Global Commodity Chains (garment and textiles)
  • Labour Exploitation; Transnational labour migration
  • Comparative politics (Africa; especially Southern Africa)
  • Political economy of development
  • Labour and social movements (South Africa)
  • Employment, precarious work and labour market restructuring
  • Feminist political economy

Dr. Clarke teaches courses on African politics, the political economy of development, and comparative politics.

Study leave July 1, 2023 - June 30, 2024

Previous courses
  • POLI 210: Comparative Politics
  • POLI 217: Development and Political Change
  • POLI 322: Sweatshops and the Politics of the Clothing Industry
  • POLI 327: Political Economy of the Global South
  • POLI 338: Approaches to Political Analysis
  • POLI 373: African Politics
  • POLI 473: Advanced Topics in African Politics and Political Economy
  • POLI 505/605: Problems of Political Analysis


  • Working Without Commitments: The Health Impacts of Precarious Employment (jointly authored with Wayne Lewchuk and Alice de Wolff). Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2011.

Special Editor of Journals:

  • Journal of Contemporary African Studies (2014) 32(3): 281-403. (Special Issue on ‘Legacies of Liberation: Post-colonial struggles for a democratic Southern Africa’) with Carolyn Bassett.
  • Journal of Contemporary African Studies (2016) 34(2): 183-308. (Special Issue on ‘The struggle for transformation in South Africa: unrealized dreams, persistent hopes’) with Carolyn Bassett.

Journal Articles:

  • "South African Trade Unions and Globalization: Going for the High Road, Getting Stuck on the Low Road" (co-authored with Carolyn Bassett), Work, Organisation, Labour and Globalisation 2:1 (2008).
  • "The Zuma Affair, labour and the future of democracy in South Africa" (co-authored with Carolyn Bassett), Third World Quarterly 29:4 (2008).
  • "Working Without Commitments: Precarious Employment and Health" (jointly written with Wayne Lewchuk and Alice de Wolff), Work, Employment and Society, 22:3 (2008).
  • "‘This just isn’t sustainable’: Precarious Employment, Stress and Workers’ Health" (jointly written with Wayne Lewchuk, Alice de Wolff and Andy King), International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Special Issue ‘Work and Mental Health’. 30 (2007).
  • "Ten Years of Labour Market Reform in South Africa: Real Gains for Workers?" Canadian Journal of African Studies, Special Issue: A Decade of Democracy in Southern Africa, 1994-2004, 38:3 (2005).
  • "The Basic Conditions of Employment Act Amendments: More Questions than Answers" (co-authored with Shane Godfrey), Law Democracy & Development, 6:1 (2002).

Chapters in books:

  • Clarke, M. (2022). South Africa: State, ANC, Decline and the Left in Crisis. In Chris Brown and Blair Rutherford (Eds.), Solidarity and Shifting Patterns of Hegemony in Southern Africa: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  • "Supporting the ‘elite’ transition in South Africa: Policing in a violent, neoliberal democracy." In Michelle D. Bonner, Guillermina Seri, Mary Rose Kubal and Michael Kempa (Eds.), Police Abuse in Contemporary Democracies. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
  • "Social Policy in South Africa: Cushioning the blow of the recession?" In Stephen McBride, Gerard Boychuk and Rianne Mahon (Eds.), The Global Crisis and Social Policy. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015.
  • "Precarious Employment and Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario", (with Wayne Lewchuk and Alice de Wolff),In John Peters (Ed.), Boom, Bust and Crisis: Labour, Corporate Power and Politics in Canada, Halifax: Fernwood Publishing. pp. 163-77 (2012).
  • "Precarious Employment and the Internal Responsibility System: Some Canadian Experiences" (jointly written with Wayne Lewchuk and Alice de Wolff). In David Walters (Eds). Workplace Health and Safety: International Perspectives on Worker Representation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • "Incorporating or Marginalising Casual Workers? Ten Years of Labour Market Reforms under the ANC." In A.H. Jeeves and G.C. Cuthbertson, (eds), Fragile Freedom: Democracy’s First Decade in South Africa. Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2009.
  • "Challenging Labour Market Flexibilisation: Union and Community-based Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa." In Marcus Taylor (ed), The Global Economy Contested: Investment, Production and Labour. New York: Routledge, 2008.
  • "The Working Poor: Labour Market Reform and Unprotected Workers in South Africa’s Retail Sector." In Magnus Ryner and Matt Davies, (eds), Poverty and the Production of World Politics: Unprotected Workers in the Global Political Economy. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2006.
  • "Challenging Segmentation in South Africa’s Labour Market: ‘Regulated Flexibility’ or Flexible Regulation?" In Leah Vosko and Jim Stanford, (eds), Challenging the Market: The Struggle to Regulate Work and Income. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.

Selected research reports:

  • "Capturing the Gains? Report on the clothing and textile industry in Mauritius", submitted to "Capturing the Gains: economic and social upgrading in global production networks", based at the School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester. 2013
  • "Labour Law Reform Programme in Tanzania: First Report of the Task Force on Employment Standards, Collective Bargaining, Dispute Resolution and Labour Institutions" (written with Halton Cheadle), Commissioned research for the Tanzanian Government and International Labour Organisation (ILO). 2003.
  • "Global influences on macro-economic policy and practice in post-apartheid South Africa’s agricultural sector" (co-authored with Stephen Greenberg), Commissioned research for Oxfam UK and the Women on Farms Project (South African). 2003.
  • "Globalisation, Production and Poverty: Macro, Meso and Micro Levels Globalisation, Democratisation and Regulation of the South African Labour Market" (jointly written with Shane Godfrey and Jan Theron), Commissioned research paper, part of a comparative project funded by the UK Department for International Development. 2003.
  • "Employment Standards in South Africa: A Country Study" (jointly written with Shane Godfrey and Jan Theron), Commissioned research report for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), published on their website. 2002.

Selected articles in popular publications and magazines:

  • "Alliance Politics and the Zuma Affair" (co-authored with Carolyn Bassett), Relay, Issue #16 (2007).
  • "Fool me Twice? Labour Politics in South Africa" (co-authored with Carolyn Bassett), Canadian Dimension, Vol. 38, No. 5. September / October (2004).
  • "Falling out of the loop? Protection of casual and contract workers in the Commercial, Distributive Sectoral Determination" (co-authored with Bridget Kenny), Bargaining Indicators, Vol. 7 (2002).
  • "University Workers: Excluding them Out" (co-authored with Bridget Kenny), Southern Africa Report. Vol. 15 No. 4 (2000)
  • "COSATU Pays the Price" co-authored with Carolyn Bassett) Southern Africa Report. Vol. 15 No. 1 (1999).


I welcome graduate students interested in studying topics linked to my research areas. I especially encourage applications from students interested in the following topics: migrant and transnational labour; labour standards and clothing production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); trade and ‘development aid’ policy (linked to the garment industry); forced labour (‘modern day slavery’) in supply chains in the clothing industry or related sectors; corporate social responsibility initiatives adopted by leading Canadian firms to address labour abuse and human rights violations in supply chains; and, worker-driven social responsibility initiatives.

I am also interested in supervising students working on country specific studies focused on the political economy of the clothing industry (or employment conditions for formal and informal workers in the sector) in Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius (or other African countries). Canadian and international students are encouraged to apply. Students are encouraged to apply for research fellowships on one of my two funded research projects currently underway.

Graduate student funding beginning in September 2022

Project One: Fast Fashion and Decent Work: labour standards in clothing production networks in sub-Saharan Africa. Up to two Graduate Fellowships at the MA level are available in the Department of Political Science beginning in September 2022 to work on a project funded through a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) with Dr. Marlea Clarke (principal investigator) and Dr. Shane Godfrey (University of Cape Town). The project focuses on employment conditions and regional production networks in the garment industry in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Research focuses on four core issues: (1) the integration of sub-SSA countries into globalised apparel networks since the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA); (2) emerging regional production networks and related backward linkages to the textiles and cotton industries; and, (3) labour standards for workers in these regional production networks, and (4) worker-management relations, especially in foreign owned firms. The country case studies for this project are Lesotho, Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania and Kenya. A fourth and final issue explored in this project is the expanded use of migrant workers in the garment industry, especially migrant workers from Bangladesh and India in Mauritius and Madagascar. The project is in its final phase. New graduate students who will join the research team, and will participate in data collection, analysis and conference paper presentations. Students’ MA thesis should focus on a topic linked to any of the four themes or country case studies explored in this project.

This position offers a research assistantship of up to $7,000.  When combined with a funding package from the Political Science department, you should expect to receive total funding of roughly $20,000 CAD for one year, including income from work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.  Teaching Assistants (TAs) are paid roughly $3,000 for one assignment and there is a strong likelihood of securing a further TA assignment if you need more than one year to complete the program.

Project Two: Transnational Legal Governance, Modern Slavery and Forced Labour in Supply Chains: Canada in a Global Context. Up to two 4-year funded graduate positions at the MA or PhD level are available to support this SSHRC-funded research project. The project is hosted by the School of Labour Studies at McMaster University (Dr. Judy Fudge is the Principal Investigator) and involves two UVIC faculty members (Dr. Marlea Clarke, UVIC POLI) and Dr. Supriya Routh (UVIC Law) as co-investigators. This project focuses on recent initiatives designed to eliminate forced labour and modern slavery in labour and supply chains, and the effectiveness of such initiatives. The project has four main research strands: (1) policy and legislative initiatives introduced by the Canadian government to combat modern slavery; (2) Canadian corporate social responsibility measures adopted by leading Canadian firms; (3) worker-driven (‘bottom-up’) social responsibility initiatives; and (4) modern slavery laws and how they operate. See our project website for more information on the project and the research strands. https://gflc.ca/

Dr. Marlea Clarke is accepting applications for up to two graduate students (MA or PhD) students to join the project team to work as research assistants. While students can work on any of the four strands, priority will be given to students whose research interest and proposed MA thesis or PhD dissertation will focus on topics linked to stands 2 & 3. Graduate students who join the project team will be provided with training in qualitative, legal and policy-oriented research, and will be invited to participate in policy and research oriented workshops organised as part of this 4-year project.

Students will be funded through a combination of fellowship, research assistance, and teaching assistance funds, to a value of up to $25,000/year. PhD students will receive funding for four years (a fifth year is possible). This funding includes income from employment as a Teaching Assistance (TA) offered from the Political Science department, plus a fellowship and research assistance position offered through the SSHRC-funded project. Additional funding for conference attendance and field research for the student’s thesis / dissertation is possible. Students with a background on topics linked to this research project, and / or training in political economy, law or labour studies, and / or specific skills or training in qualitative, quantitative, policy or legal research are encouraged to apply.

Applicants applying for the MA / PhD program in the Department of Political Science should indicate an interest in working on this project. Interested students should consult the department’s website to learn more about UVic’s graduate program and requirements.

For more information about these research projects, or to apply to join the research team, please contact Dr. Marlea Clarke: mjclarke@uvic.ca