This panel reflects upon the effects of the liberalization of the global economy through research on commodities involved in large-scale circulation. Case studies based on ethnographic research present the social as well as political shifts caused by production, regulation, and consumption.
The current decline of some sectors of the European economy, the considerable weight taken on by China, and increasing competition on the African continent between European and Chinese economic actors invites us to analyze economic relationships that cannot only be viewed in terms of national opposition. Instead, we must think of the increasing interdependencies of economies and consequences on the governance of concrete societies. The goal of this panel is to present work based on ethnographic research describing how the multiplication of transnational networks and the emergence of new key places assure large-scale trade and become determinant factors in understanding the displacement of sovereignty and regulation. An investigation of the political life of commodities goes beyond the classical division of cultural areas. By examining trade between Africa, Europe, Asia and beyond, we are able to surpass cultural and geographic boundaries and engage a comparative approach. The presentation of research conduced in geographically diverse sites will contribute to new knowledge of contemporary forms of governance within the context of globalization. One hypothesis guiding this panel postulates that the ethnography of these places of exchange offers an opportunity to analyze social practices and consumption patterns that produce new forms of social distinctions. The study of the circulation of commodities from an anthropological perspective also highlights a strategic issue for the political and economic future of Europe. By examining changes in production, food consumption, luxury goods, raw materials, and manufactured goods, the panel will analyze the transformations of political and economic relations.