Girls of the Factory: Discussion Questions

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in General, Girls of the Factory | 0 comments

Dear Readers,
Below is a list of questions from author M. Laetita Cairoli to help guide your reading of Girls of the Factory.  We welcome your comments about the book here on the blog and look forward to discussing the book with you on October 1!
1. What is the purpose of a book’s preface?
2. How and why did the author develop this book? How much time has elapsed between writing and research?
Introduction   (Note: As I state in the preface, the narrative portion of this text could stand alone from this introduction, which is more theoretical in nature, depending on the level of the students.) 
1. In the introduction the author states her goals for the book. What are these goals?
2. Why has the author chosen the narrative style for this ethnography?
3. In what way do the book’s three sections – street, factory, home—correspond to divisions the girls themselves impose upon space? How does the factory/home dichotomy get used by theorists investigating the global factory?
5. What are some of the issues that have been raised by theorists studying the work of girls and women in factories across the globe? How does the author deal with these issues?
10. Who are the garment girls of Fes? Consider their age, educational status, family position, class status, etc.
11. What are the central values and expectations of Fes families regarding their daughters? 
Chapter 1
1. Look at the map of Fes given here. Where are the Ville Nouvelle, the medina, the factory districts located relative to one another? Based on the author’s descriptions, what are the differences between these particular sections of the city?
2. The director of the Fes Chamber of Commerce does not want the author to step inside a factory, although he agrees to allow her to view them from the outside. In your opinion, what is motivating him? Is Malik’s explanation sufficient?
3. Haja and Fatima both advise the author not to return to the factory where she met them. In your opinion, why are they so certain the owner would not be happy with a repeat visit? Should the author listen to their advice? Why or why not?
4. “As job hunters in an unpredictable job market, these young women were free from their family’s watchful eyes, enjoying an autonomy that would have been unimaginable had they not been forced to look for work.” (P.33) Some thinkers argue that factory work gives females increased autonomy. Based on what the author learns by speaking with workers in the streets, do you believe this is true? In what way does factory work free the girls from traditional constraints?
5. In what way does visiting a carpet factory give the author greater insight into the lives of the garment factory workers, the girls who are the focus of her study?
6. The owner of “Couture”, like Abdel-Haq, suspects that the author is an American spy. Given this, why do you think this owner allows the author to carry out her survey in his factory?
Chapter 2
1. What is Sylvie’s attitude towards the workers?
2. After describing the workers’ lunchtime conversation, the author notes that “The Moroccan factory girls sought no identity as “workers”—such an identity was worthless to them.” What does this mean? Based on what you know thus far about work in this factory, why might it be so? 
3. In fighting with Absellem, Fatima calls out, “I am not afraid of Sylvie or of anyone…I am afraid only of God.” In what way does her response to Absellem contradict common representations of women in the Middle East?
4. Why did the author fear being seen driving with Sylvie and her husband? Were her fears legitimate?
5. The author provides detailed descriptions of what and how the workers eat lunch, their discussions at the lunch table, the pictures they choose to display. Are these descriptions of value? What, if anything, do such descriptions accomplish?
6. The “make-up” session leads the author to theorize about the use of make-up by factory girls. What are her assertions? Do you believe this interpretation is accurate? 
Chapter 3
1. The morning after the workers receive what they perceive to be unfair pay, they complain about it, and then accept the payment without revolt. The author offers an explanation for why workers appear to accept very uneven wages. Do you believe it is an adequate explanation? 
2. The workers assert they give their money to their mothers, not to their fathers. What does this say about their households?
3. Nearly all the workers in the factory are unmarried females. Why, according to the author, do owners prefer not to hire married women?
4. After work one day, Fatima leaves the factory with the cry: “I am going to ‘do the boulevard,’ and then go home and make hrira!” In what way is this an act of resistance? Resistance to what?
5. Fatima and her sister both began careers as factory workers, but their lives took very different paths. What does this tell us about the workers?
6. Hayat insists that a married woman should not have to “work for her husband.” What does she mean? What does this say about her concept of marriage?
7. How do the workers react to the treatment of the worker who slapped Absellam? What does this tell us about the women’s attitudes about widespread ideas about gender?
Chapter 4 
1. In the course of doing her survey, the author listens to a speech by a woman named Sala, who was employed for a long time in the city’s factories. What does Sala say about the way the factories used to operate in Fes? What does she suggest is the reason for the change? Can the author trust what this worker says? If not, do the worker’s claims have any significance?
2. After listening to Sala speak, the author hears the problems of a girl who suffered a traumatic burn, and another girl who is concerned about her father’s pension. What does this variety of voices suggest about who the workers are?
3. As the author ends her tenure in the factory, she has a strange suspicion that the owners, and perhaps even the workers, blame her for the factory closing. Do you believe this could be so? What does this say about the effects of fieldwork on the fieldworker?
Chapter 5
1. Why is Nadia’s story important?
2. What does Aisha tell the author about funeral rituals in Morocco? 
Chapter 6
1. What does Abdel-Haq think about the fqi and how does this differ from what the women think? 
2. Jamila tells the author about her plans for using the birth control pills. Should the author have advised Jamila on possible health risks?
3. The workers at Nadia’s factory staged a walk out. In what way was this walk out not a real protest?
4. Consider the story of Nadia’s courtship with the teacher. In what way was her dating the teacher different from courtship patterns in the United States? In what way was it similar?
5. Jamila insists that girls should have a “little freedom,” but not too much. Earlier, Latifa made a similar claim. What does this claim mean? In what way does such a claim allow females some flexibility in managing their own behavior?
6. Consider the story of Aisha’s marriage. What, in Aisha’s opinion, are the biggest problems with marriage in Morocco? What sorts of marriage does she plan for her daughters?
Chapter 7
 1. At the end of the fieldwork period, the author seems eager to leave the field. What do you think of this? Should she admit to feeling this way in the ethnography?
1. What kind of conclusions does the author draw about the effect of industrialization on the working girls of Morocco?
2. Given that this ethnography reflects conditions in Morocco in 1995, what might the material here suggest about factory work in the country today?


Questions adapted from:

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