The political life of commodities: a reflection on the contemporary circulation of "things" and resulting social and political transformations 
Kelley Sams (Norbert Elias Center/ Walden University)
Giorgio Cassone (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)
Stephen Gudeman (University of Minnesota Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Worlds in motion: Global Flows/Mondes en mouvement: Flots globaux
FSS 1005
Start time:
6 May, 2017 at 8:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel proposes a collective reflection on the social and political consequences of the large-scale circulation of commodities. We explore how the flow of "things" creates new connections between goods and people that go well beyond the economic sector.

Long Abstract

This panel proposes a collective reflection on the social and political consequences of new modalities of circulation of commodities (medication, art, recycled food, ceremonial objects, etc.). From the beginning of the 20th century, Georg Simmel highlighted the complex processes engaged in the creation of shared meanings and the determination of social, moral, and economic value involved in exchange. This perspective was instrumental in the development of Appadurai's framework approaching goods as "things" with social lives, and carrying value "inscribed in their forms, their uses, their trajectories" (1986:5). We would like to open up a debate often limited by geographic and disciplinary boundaries to explore how the exchange and flow of "things" impacts the collective imaginary, and creates new connections between goods and people, at increasing speed and scale, well beyond the economic sector.

For this panel, we are calling for contributions that display concrete empirical ethnographic evidence related to the circulation of commodities. These case studies should address the following questions: How do ethnographers observe and describe this political reshaping provoked by the production, circulation, and regulation of commodities? What methodological challenges are related to the follow up of such processes (multi-sited multi-scale ethnography…)? How are new networks of social actors formed by the flow of goods, and act upon it in return? The contributors are expected to focus on the consequences of the circulation of specific commodities on the socio-political imaginary and power relationships in different contexts.

Accepted papers: