Geographies of Dissociation: Informality, Ethical Codes and Fragmented Labour Regimes in the Sri Lankan Apparel Industry

Shyamain Wickramasingha*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

64 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, I use the emerging concept of geographies of dissociation to examine fragmented labour regimes in global production networks (GPNs). The article takes informality in the Sri Lankan apparel industry and the application of ethical codes as a case example. Using qualitative research methods, I provide a critical analytical lens through which the concept of dissociation makes visible what has been obscured through much of the debate on ethical codes. In so doing, the article makes three contributions to the debate on ethical codes and dissociation. First, I illuminate uneven geographies of ethical codes manifested through highly fragmented workplaces where some workers are excluded from the protection of ethical codes. In so doing, the article challenges the notion of homogenous workplaces, in which, dialectics of inclusion and exclusion of ethical codes often go unnoticed. Secondly, by illustrating bifurcated and inequal labour regimes, I argue that both association and dissociation practices can co-exist in the same workplace at the same time. This is in contrast to the existing works that mostly frame places of dissociation as distant and hidden from the association places. Third, I advance the concept of dissociation beyond its current framing to argue for a notion of collective dissociation emerging from fluid and complex social relations of multi-scalar actors. I argue that in GPNs, such collective practices of dissociation are possible and even necessary given the complex ways firms and non-firm actors are connected to each other from the global scale to the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Economic Geography
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1191-1211
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 15 May 2023.


  • Ethical codes
  • Labour regimes
  • Apparel industry
  • Informality
  • Geographies of dissociation
  • Sri Lanka

Cite this