International Conference: Transnational Labour Rights Activism across Asia and Beyond

The conference aims to bring together a group of international renowned researchers as well as early stage career scientists to discuss and bring forward a highly policy-relevant research theme that has not received sufficient attention in current scholarship: transnational labour rights activism.

We see the following characteristics as core features of transnational labour rights activism:
(a) coordination and conflict between trade unions and NGOs
(b) combination of insider and outsider strategies (institutionalized and non-institutionalized politics)
(c) multiple targets and complex boomerang patterns

While there are many conferences and publications on the governance of global supply chains, transnational private regulation or cross border trade unions cooperation, there is no systematic overview on how different types of labor rights organizations (trade unions and NGOs) coordinate and struggle across Asian and non-Asian countries for improving working conditions in Asian suppliers.

Research papers prepared for the meeting will present their latest results on, and innovative thinking around, the emergence, development and outcomes of transnational labour rights activism across Asia and other countries. The conference -cum-publication project seeks papers which contribute to the conceptualization of transnational labour rights activism as a multi-scalar phenomenon including activists from at least one Asian country in the analysis. Each article should theorize an aspect around the relationship of different activists and activist organizations (NGOs, social movement organizations, trade unions), and how they combine or organize complex strategizing with multiple targets (companies, states, regional and global governing institutions).

In specific the conference has the following aims:

  • to discuss research papers prepared by participants, bringing together new empirical evidence on transnational labour rights activism in an economically highly relevant region (Asia)
  • to construct and exchange theoretical and conceptual frameworks in the field of mobilization and organization, globalization and governance
  • to discuss policy implications of the possibilities and challenges of labour internationalism against the backdrop of on-going international economic crisis with civil society organizations and academics
  • to prepare a publication (guest-edited special journal issue) and to disseminate results through websites of the applicants and other appropriate media
  • to create networks between the German and the international research community working on issues of labour, transnational mobilization, governance and development

Participating scientists come from four different continents (Europe, Asia, Australia and North America).

We anticipate the publication of a special issue in an international, peer reviewed journal.

Further Information will follow.


German Research Foundation (DFG)
MERCUR (Mercator Research Center Ruhr) Research project "Transnational labour activism in the global textile industry"
Contested working conditions in the global production of garments


Prof. Dr. Nicola Piper (Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)
Prof. Dr. Sabrina Zajak (Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr-University Bochum)
Saida Ressel (Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr-University Bochum)

Date and Venue

Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany)
17 – 18 September 2015


Saida Ressel


Call for Papers  

Conference Programme