After Barbie Left--- Rediscovering Local Industrial Upgrading, Women's Empowerment and Paradigm Shift of Design through Meining Workshop

  • Wong, Ju-Joan (PI)
  • Lin, Rung-Tai (CoPI)

Project: National Science and Technology CouncilNational Science and Technology Council Academic Grants

Project Details


Barbie doll is regarded as one of the most important design labels that represents the twentieth century; up until today it is estimated that around 100 million Barbie dolls have been sold in 150 countries around the world. In 1967, the manufacturer of Barbie dolls, Mattel Inc., set up a joint venture establishment, the Meining factory in Taishan Town, Taipei County, which is Mattel’s first supplying factory in Southeast Asia as well as its biggest overseas production base. In its heyday, the Meining factory manufactured more than 20,000 Barbie dolls per day; of all the Barbie dolls in the world, a half of them were ‘Made in Taiwan’. It was estimated that one third of residents in Taishan Town worked in the Meining factory, and business outsourcing expanded to numerous domestic sub-contractors; generous wages and bonuses of a foreign company attracted many rural-urban immigrants from other regions. The life histories of many Taishan villagers are intertwined with the Meining factory. However, Mattel shut down the Meining factory in 1987 due to the consideration of labour costs, ending its production in Taiwan. Employees were laid-off and unemployed, and the development of local economy suddenly lost its basis. In 1998 the township council imported the concept and practices of community development, which combined resources subsidised by central government departments, and employed the dolls industry as the programme to boost local economy. In this way, not only is Taishan Town brought about new business opportunities, many women who participate in community development can hopefully improve self-empowerment. Facing the global flows of multinational corporations, how do local communities strivefor the source of development and survival? And how does the Barbie doll, a gendered symbol that is continuously criticised in Western societies, interweave a different story together with female assembly-line workers and mothers in the community? This real and complicated situation cannot be run through by a single theory. In the light of above-mentioned questions, this research aims to review the development history of industries in Taishan Town from the perspective of globalisation theories. Secondly, to analyse the difficulties of local industrial upgrading from the perspective of economic geography, and examine the effects of industrial promotion strategies in community development. Lastly, to explore the opportunities of empowerment of women in the community, hopefully to establish a new professional position for industrial design regarding the issues of its intervention in industrial upgrading, community development and women’s empowerment.

Project IDs

Project ID:PE9907-2628
External Project ID:NSC99-2410-H224-030-MY2
Effective start/end date01/08/1031/07/11


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