Alumni Update: Sundari Anitha
Sundari Anitha is a 1996 Inlaks Scholar. She is currently working as a senior lecturer at the College of Social Science at University of Lincoln. She recently collaborated with Ruth Pearson on a book entitled, Striking Women: Struggles and Strategies of South Asian women from Grunwick to Gate Gourmet. Read more about in this week's blogpost below.
This work argues that mobilisation and militancy of South Asian women in the UK has to be understood in the context of women’s class position and work and migration history; not all South Asian women are the same. It challenges stereotypes of South Asian women as passive and confined to the domestic sphere, whilst exploring the ways in which their employment experience interacted with their domestic roles.
This book is centred on two industrial disputes, the famous Grunwick strike (1976-78) and the Gate Gourmet dispute that erupted in 2005. The focus on these events helps us explore the nature of South Asian women’s contribution to the struggles for workers’ rights in the UK. We examine histories of migration and settlement of two different groups of women of South Asian origin, and how this history, their gendered, classed and racialised inclusion in the labour market, the context of industrial relations in the UK in the two periods and the nature of the trade union movement shaped the trajectories and the outcomes of the two disputes.
There have been other books about the Grunwick strike, though as yet little attention has been paid to the bitter dispute at Gate Gourmet. But this is the first account based on the voices of the women involved. Drawing on life/work history interviews with thirty-two women who participated in the two disputes, as well as interviews with trade union officials, archival material and employment tribunal proceedings we explore the motivations, experiences and implications of these events for strikers’ political and social identities.
The two disputes also serve as a prism for examining particular continuities and changes in the industrial relations, trade union practices and their scope for action. This work challenges stereotypes of South Asian women as passive and confined to the domestic sphere, whilst exploring the ways in which their employment experience interacted with their domestic roles. Paying close attention to the events and contexts of their workplace struggles enables us to understand the centrality of work to their identities, the complex relationships between these women and their trade unions and some of the challenges that confront trade unions in their efforts to address issues posed by gender and ethnicity. This is the workers’ story not just the union’s story.
Web-based resources - www.striking-women.org received it 2 millionth visitor in 2018
The role of South Asian women migrants in the UK workforce has been largely ignored by history, but they have played an important, and growing role in the UK workforce over the last 50 years. These resources highlight the Grunwick and Gate Gourmet disputes as examples of the wider context of the history of migration to the UK and the struggles for workers’ rights. At a time when the rights and security of migrant workers in the UK is in question, this work is a timely reminder of the immense contribution women workers of South Asian descent have made to UK industry and industrial relations.
In February 2018, the site welcomed its 2 millionth visit since 2014, while an exhibition on the two disputes has travelled to over 20 venues across England and Scotland. The resources also include a comic on the lives and struggles of two South Asian women workers in the UK.
These resources have been developed by Dr Sundari Anitha (University of Lincoln) and Professor Ruth Pearson (University of Leeds), and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.