Department of Development Studies

Dr Alessandra Mezzadri

Key information

Department of Development Studies Reader in Global Development & Political Economy Member, Centre for Gender Studies Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute Research Cluster Convenor: Global Labour, Activism and Social Justice Cofounder: Global Feminist political Economy@SOAS Working Group
BA (LA Sapienza); MSc, PhD (London)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
0207 898 4533
Support hours
By email appointment


I am a feminist political economist of global development, concerned with processes of globalisation of production, work and social reproduction. I have been trained in Economics, Political Economy and Business Studies at La Sapienza, Rome, and in Development Studies, Gender, Labour and Development, at SOAS. I joined SOAS as faculty in 2008, after completing a PhD on the ‘making’ of cheap labour in the Indian garment industry, with an emphasis on the labour regime characterising the industry, its global and localised patterns of labour control, and its productive and reproductive links to the informal economy. I continue my work on what I call ‘sweatshop economics’ to date.

I also work on feminist political economy theories, methods and methodologies, on the relation between production and reproduction in shaping processes of value and labour surplus extraction, and on the global political economy of work. In the last two years, I have worked extensively on the political economy of COVID-19 from a feminist lens centred on social reproduction, and accounting for intersecting inequalities of class, gender and race.
Based on my work, I have collaborated with international development organisations like the ILO and UNIDO and with INGOs like ActionAid, Labour Behind the Label, and War on Want. I have engaged with global development research or education centres like UNU-WIDER and the Global Labour University (GLU). I have worked alongside unions, labour organisations and NGOs, like the Self-Employed Women Association (SEWA), Cividep and READ in India.

At SOAS, I teach on theories of development, political economy, global supply chain capitalism and labour, feminist political economy, and contemporary India. I consider myself a global instructor dedicated to the teaching of social justice. I have delivered guest lectures and seminars internationally, and collaborated with the Global Labour University. 


Programmes Convened

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Research interests

I published extensively on the political economy of the garment industry, globally and in India; on the informal economy and processes of labour informalisation; on feminist political economy theories, methodologies, and methods of research; and on the global political economy of COVID-19 through the lens of social reproduction. My first book, the Sweatshop Regime, provides a detailed account of the garment sweatshop in India, as a regime of exploitative social relations shaped by multiple masters; crossing productive and reproductive, formal and informal realms and spaces; and with harsh health implications for the labouring bodies of the workers involved. The book has excellent reviews in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI), Antipode, Global Labour Journal, Millennial Asia, South Asia Research, ILR Review, and Economic and Political Weekly.

The Sweatshop Regime is based on extensive fieldwork experience in India, across urban, peri-urban and rural outposts of the garment industry, where I deployed multiple methods of data collection, ranging from semi-quantitative surveys, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and life-histories. During over fifteen years of research work in the sector, I have collected both business histories as well as workers’ interviews and life histories, across varied echelons of the formal and informal economy. I have researched both large and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in a variety of industrial clusters. I studied labour contractors and traders, and factory labour as well as home-based work. Based on my findings, I have also engaged with global policy debates on CSR, labour standards, ethical trade initiatives and modern slavery.

My interest in methodologies for the study of exploitation and in support of fieldwork centred on social justice inspired my second book project, which is the edited collection Marx in the Field (Anthem 2021). This book shows the contemporary relevance of Marxian concepts and categories of analysis for the study of our global present. The collection includes chapters by leading scholars of global political economy who work on different regions of the world economy, and who reflect on the challenges of field-based research for critical global development scholars; on the synergies between Marxian analysis and other radical theoretical traditions; and on the strengths and limitations of different methods of data collection for ‘doing’ political economy in practice. The book is very positively reviewed in Whatisworthreading, in the Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, Capital and Class and Progress in Development Studies.

In the last few years, reflecting on my field-based experience, I have returned to theory. First, I have written extensively on the feminist political economy analysis of value and labour surplus extraction. Through an engagement with early and more recent debates and frameworks focusing on social reproduction, I have developed a ‘value theory of inclusion’ which accounts for the role that social reproduction plays in value generation and exploitation. In this body of work, published in outlets like Radical Philosophy and Antipode, among others, I show how feminist takes of value are crucial to understand the world of informal labour across our planet. Secondly, I have written on the feminist political economy of COVID-19. Using social reproduction as method, I explored how the pandemic has reinforced neoliberalism; restructured life-sustaining sectors, the world of work, and deepened racial and gendered inequalities and exclusion, manufacturing surplus populations.

I am currently co-editing a Handbook on the Global Political Economy of Work. I welcome PhD applications in the areas of India’s informal economy; global supply chain capitalism, work and global development; global feminist political economy and social reproduction; and critical approaches to modern slavery in global industries.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Fathimah Fildzah Izzati Social Reproduction Depletion in Indonesian Industrial Areas
Ayse Arslan Low-Paid Industrial Workers in the Garment Industry, Un-Paid House-Workers in the Family: Women Workers in Turkey/Izmir
Daryn Howland
Ananyo Mukherjee Political Economy of ‘Living Labour’: Probing Petty Commodity Production as a space of Social Reproduction in India’s Post-colonial Capitalism


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