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Death of an Industry: The Cultural Politics of Garment Manufacturing During the Maoist Revolution

Garment manufacturing can be singled out for its pivotal role in the economic development of many countries in different periods of world history. The global enactment of policies including the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA), have given rise to a postcolonial landscape of industrial spectacle, which is inextricably intertwined with the webs of social transformation and political regime change. In this context, Nepal Economic Forum organized a neftalk based on a book, “Death of an Industry: The Cultural Politics of Garment Manufacturing During the Maoist Revolution” that studies the relationship between turmoil of the garment industry and the People’s War in Nepal. It revisits how the expiry of MFA led to a major politico-economic reshuffling in Nepal.

The neftalk “Death of an Industry: The Cultural Politics of Garment Manufacturing During the Maoist Revolution” was a moderated panel discussion, bringing together a diverse panel of speakers.

Diepak Elmer, the Deputy Head of Mission and Head of Cooperation, the Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal, noted that the book, “Death of an industry” has given a voice and face to the garment industry of Nepal which was otherwise considered anonymous. It explores the industry from a micro economic point of view and identifies bottlenecks which led to the failure of orthodox economic policies further affecting the garment industry of Nepal. He also emphasised that the development or failure of any industry cannot be only attributed on abstract models of economics; the aspects of local knowledge and social capital arealso equally important as industries are embedded in socio-cultural and economic models.

Krishna Gyawali, former Secretary of the Government of Nepal, marked that while prosperity has become the national agenda in Nepal, the book with its rich academic base and anecdotal evidences provide a thoughtful perspective on contextualizing economic development through a lens of anthropology. Mallika Shakya, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at South Asian University, New Delhi, author of the book noted that the book tries to pave a path to find the resolution between business competitiveness and national democracy and understand the hegemonic narrative of competitiveness and development. Sumana Shrestha, Founder of Bhuntu, stressed that the book raises a serious question about the way ahead for Nepali industries.

Sujeev Shakya, Chairperson of Nepal Economic Forum closed the discussions by noting three take-away from the discussion. He marked that death of the garment industry in Nepal should be viewed from a qualitative dimension rather than just the quantitative economic aspect while taking into account the competitiveness of the industry. The second take away that he underscored was that the cultural aspect of a society plays a huge role in how industries move in the global competitiveness index. The third take away, and also a way forward that Sujeev emphasised was that, the dimension of collaboration for development is significant for any industry to mark its growth and sustainability in a changing market.

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