A world of goods and the wealth of nations: anthropologies of export

Siobhan Magee (University of Edinburgh)
Quincentenary Building, Wadsworth Room
Start time:
20 June, 2014 at 14:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel uses export's historical significance in the expansion of nation states as a starting point for exploring both labour in export industries and the export of labour, the materiality of exported goods, and where an anthropology of export might sit in relation to work on globalization.

Long abstract:

Exportation is generally understood as the process of dispatching goods or services to another country in return for payment. That export might also evoke the transmission of ideas, practices, and authority signals its historical significance that pre-dates ¬- but also helped to develop - the nation state. The export of tobacco, fur, silk, and tea are not only linked to the growth of cities, banks, mercantile classes, and colonial power; in some cases, they constituted them (Yanagisako 2010; Sleeper-Smith 2000). Export also provides a lens onto shifting labour practices, from the trade of 'military man-power' (Wolf 1972) to outsourcing, and anxieties about 'brain drain'. This panel seeks a diverse set of papers reflecting the ubiquity of export in an era of globalized goods and labour, and the genealogies between histories of export and contemporary global and domestic class structures (Roseberry 2007). What are the lived experiences of those who make products to be sold internationally or who scope international markets for entrepreneurial opportunities? What parts do laws and ethics play in export, from 'free trade' agreements to the rise of 'fair trade'? Some panelists might unpack the material and/or symbolic resonances of exported 'things', inspired by granular accounts of, for example, different cuts of meat from the same animal being dispatched to different places (Gewertz and Errington 2010). Should an anthropology of export be embedded within work on globalization (e.g. Trouillot 2001; Kearney 1995; Eriksen 2003), or does it give a contrasting/ conflictual view of such practices?