Invisible Hands: Voices from the Global Economy



Invisible Hands: Voices from the Global Economy

Edited by Corinne Goria with a Foreword by Kalpona Akter

The men and women in this oral history collection reveal the human rights abuses occurring behind the scenes of the global economy. These narrators—including phone manufacturers in China, copper miners in Zambia, garment workers in Bangladesh, and farmers around the world—reveal the secret history of the things we buy, including lives and communities devastated by low wages, environmental degradation, and political repression. Sweeping in scope and rich in detail, these stories capture the interconnectivity of all people struggling to support themselves and their families.

Narrators include:

KALPONA, a leading Bangladeshi labor organizer who led her first strike at fifteen while working in a garment factory. As an adult, she now faces arrest, torture, and constant surveillance for her work.

ALBERT, a copper miner in Zambia who, during a wage protest, was shot by representatives of the Chinese-owned mining company that he worked for. Desperate for a living wage, Albert attempted to resume work with the company after months in the hospital.

SANJAY, who grew up in the shadow of the Bhopal chemical disaster, one of the worst industrial accidents in history. As an adult, Sanjay fights for recognition of the damage still wrought on his community even decades after the gas leak that killed thousands.

HYE-KYEONG, who, as a teenager, began assembling circuit boards for an international electronics company based in Seoul. Though she was paid a living wage, Hye-Kyeong was one of many co-workers who developed cancers or tumors at a young age.

About the Editor:

Corinne Goria is a writer, lawyer and Assistant Editor of Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives, Voice of Witness’ collection of oral histories from undocumented immigrants in the United States. She is based in San Diego.

About the Forwarder: 

Kalpona Akter is an internationally-recognized labor rights advocate. She is the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and is herself a former child garment worker. BCWS is regarded by the international labor rights movement as among the most effective grassroots labor organizations in Bangladesh. Kalpona’s work has been covered extensively by local and international media, including ABC, BBC, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

Select Press & Praise for Invisible Hands:

“Explainer: Garment Manufacturing and Human Rights” (YES! Magazine, 5/1/2014)

“Living in the Shadow of the Bhopal Chemical Disaster” (Mother Jones, 6/2/2014)

“Oral History Puts a Human Face on Global Economy” (Huffington Post, 6/2/2014)

“Peter Orner interviews Invisible Hands editor Corinne Goria” (The Rumpus, 6/3/2014)

Our Partners:

In order to conduct interviews of those most affected by human rights crises in the global economy, Voice of Witness has partnered with numerous organizations and scholars, among them:

International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)

Sweatfree Communities

Good Electronics

Basel Action Network (BAN)

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) (Hong Kong)

Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWIS)

Citizens for a Better Environment (Zambia),

Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff Project

Pesticide Action Network (PANNA)

EcoViva (El Salvador)

Centro de Apoyo del Trabajador (Puebla, Mexico)

NISGUA (Guatemala)

International Coalition for Responsible Technology (ICRT)

Uzbek-German Human Rights Forum

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

International Longshore & Warehouse Workers’ Union (ILWU)

Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPS)

California Rural Legal Assistance

Dr. Lisa Rofel, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz; Dr. Ching Kwan Lee, Professor of Sociology at UCLA; Dr. Alastair Fraser, Professor of Political Science, Cambridge University; Dr. Miles Larmer, University of Sheffield; and Dr. Gregor Murray of the University of Montreal are among the contributing scholars for this book.


This project, and the work of Voice of Witness, is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.