A Manufactu(RED) Ethics: Labor, HIV, and the Body in Lesotho’s “Sweat-free” Garment Industry

Abstract

Employing mostly women and producing for major U.S. labels, Lesotho’s primarily foreign-owned garment industry undertook efforts to become “sweat-free” in 2006; simultaneously, it also began producing for the Product(RED) campaign. This article explores the parameters and ethical challenges of an industry-wide, public–private partnership providing HIV prevention and treatment services in this industry. Here, HIV services are intimately bound up in emerging patterns of humanitarian consumption and the production of an ethical industry. Within this ethical production zone, all is not what it seems: Labor violations persist, workers confront occupational hazards, and an elaborate theatrics of ethical practice plays out on the factory floor during routine inspections. This article explores the place and purpose of HIV treatment in the context of such humanitarian fetishism, highlighting the uses to which worker bodies are put and the conceptions of bodily well-being that prevail in these new “moral” economies.