According to a corpus of representative texts and standard minimal Marxist definitions, the “proletariat” of proletarian literature is, by definition, revolutionary, and by implication, male; this is the specific subset of the working class entrusted with the historic mission of abolishing the class system. Women's texts of nonrevolutionary socialism from across the global North-South divide, however, confront us with new figures and concepts for thinking unorganized resistance, everyday exigencies, and the shape of the ethical within globalization. This essay studies the conventions and notations of such proletarian internationalist feminist texts from the global South, focusing specifically on the figure of a dispersed collective subject. It brings together contemporary protest literature published by Dabindu--a collective comprised of garment factory worker-activists and feminists from the free trade zone regions of Sri Lanka--with Tillie Olsen's classic field-defining literature from the proletarian moment in the U.S. Can we speak of a collective subject of feminism within economic globalization? Whose interest does staking a claim for such a heterogeneous class subject--one that figures “unity in dispersal”--serve? What are the conditions and constraints for conceptualizing historical agency and class struggle according to these terms, given that we occupy a conjuncture that has been described by some in epochal terms as the “feminization of the proletariat,” by others as the “NGO-ization of feminism”? Toward answering these questions, “Rethinking Working-Class Literature” turns to the methodological resources of Marxism and comparative literature. This essay ultimately seeks to articulate the terms of a feminist class politics in the shadow of economisms like “comparative advantage” and “outsourcing.”

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