[URBANTH-L]CFP: Hidden Hands in the Market ... (Sussex)

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Thu Oct 19 16:30:38 EDT 2006

Call for papers

Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographic explorations of the production-consumption nexus in a globalised economy


Workshop to be held at the University of Sussex on 12-13 April 2007



We invite papers for a workshop that will explore a range of anthropological
contributions to the study of global networks of production and trade.  


Across the world, producers, middlemen and consumers as well as activist
groups of various sorts, such as consumer movements, form increasingly dense
and complex networks of exchange.  In these networks it is not only goods
and commodities that move across the globe at ever increasing speed but also
values and moralities are circulated and given new meanings, while politics
and relations of power are constantly being reshaped.  In contrast to
mainstream ways of doing business, fair trade networks, ethical trade
initiatives and corporate social responsibility agendas represent just some
of the new movements that have begun to engage with the moral, social and
political implications of market exchange that remain largely hidden in
economists' studies of the changing global economy.  In the workshop we
intend to explore how anthropologists can study these new phenomena, unveil
what shapes consumer-producer networks, and contribute to an understanding
of the moralities and politics 'behind the label'.   


Global value chain analysis has become an influential framework used by
economists to gain insight into the ways in which commodities and their
value emerge across the production chain, and to study the global
connections between consumers, middle-people and producers/workers (Gereffi
1994; 2001).  While this global value chain framework has certainly provided
us with a better understanding of the organisation of the global economy, it
is of much less use to address issues that go beyond the economics of 'Who
wins from globalisation?' (Kaplinsky 2001) and 'Who can upgrade their
activities within a commodity chain?' (Dolan and Teewari 2001).  We
therefore aim to extend this approach to think of exchange and interaction
in much broader terms (social and political rather than just economic,
networks rather than just chains, and so on) and suggest that our
understanding of global economic behaviour will benefit precisely from
prioritising an analysis of the social, ethical and political.


The issues we would like to address therefore include an expanding and
critical rethinking of value to include not only economic value but also
political and ideological values (such as authenticity value).  Values - as
a source of meaning-making - cannot be grasped within a narrowly economistic
paradigm but need to be located within the wider framework of human
interaction and exchange (Appadurai 1986; Graeber 2001). Yet, values shape
social and economic behaviour and increasingly travel across boundaries and
between consumers and producers. So, what constitutes 'value' as a much
wider term than that found in global value chain analyses?  How do values
shape the form and content of exchange? And how can we study them?


Similarly, there is a need to explore where and how concepts of ethics and
morality emerge, circulate and blend within global networks, and how they
are at times shared between social actors while at other times imposed by
some onto others.  Ethical trade and corporate responsibility are both
concerned with issues of morality and fairness - often directly emanating
from consumer activism - but we still know very little about how these
concerns come about, where they are generated and what their impact is on
groups of consumers and producers across the globe.  We therefore aim to
examine attempts to reintroduce concerns with morality and ethics in to the
world of exchange. What concepts of ethics and morality do we find in fair
trade initiatives?  What sense of morality forms the basis of CSR activity?
How are these concepts integrated into trade practices and policies?  Who is
affected by them and how?


There is also a need to unravel the 'politics behind the label'.  While
global value chain analysis has introduced the concept of governance to
address the distribution of power along the commodity chain (Humphrey and
Schmitz 2001), we would like to relocate power within wider social and
political networks and consider the ways in which it is embedded in social,
ethical and moral values.  We thus conceive of politics not as an add-on but
as internal to (while often hidden within) processes of neo-liberal
globalisation. To what extent are power relations shaped by the moralities
and values of the western consumer? To what extent and in what ways do
western corporations and their social responsibility impact on governance in
producing countries? Is the power of corporations challenged or reproduced
by recent concerns and practices of corporate responsibility, fair trade and
other forms of consumer activism? What form does resistance take in these
new, networked contexts of production and trade. 


In the contemporary economy, the consumer no longer appears merely as an
economic and social agent who consumes, but increasingly also as a political
activist involved in critical reflection on the politics of trade and
exchange.  This is reflected in consumer concerns about ethics and fair
trade as well as in their drive for corporate social responsibility.  There
is a need to research this binary role through a political economy approach
that combines both economic and cultural analyses.  Otherwise, as Ben Fine
has warned, we risk being left with neo-classical economics which leaves
everything to the market, or postmodernism which leaves everything to the
imagination (Fine 2002: 24).


In sum, the workshop aims to explore anthropology's potential contributions
to the study of commodity chains, of flows of goods, moralities and values,
and of the politics that shape the global world of exchange. We welcome
papers on any of the above and related themes, and would like to receive
short abstracts by 30 November 2006.  


Please send abstracts to: 

Dr Geert de Neve, Department of Anthropology, University of Sussex
G.R.De-Neve at sussex.ac.uk




Lois Stanford
Associate Professor, Anthropology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
MSC 3BV, Box 30001
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001

phone: 505-646-6092
fax: 505-646-3725

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