The panel problematizes taken-for-granted notions such as "flows" and "mobilities" in commodity production. By investigating how the life cycle of goods impacts the dynamics through which capital mobilizes labor, we will look at how value chains structure the field of possibility for workers.
Our panel aims to problematize taken-for-granted notions such as "flows" and "mobilities" in the realm of commodity production. By investigating how the life cycle of goods impacts the local, regional, and transnational dynamics through which capital mobilizes labor, we want to look at how value chains structure the field of possibility for the workers' own "staying, moving, or settling". Global commodity (value) chain studies, in the way they have been inaugurated by Hopkins and Wallerstein and their disciples, have at times prioritized long-term macro-flows at the expense of the kind of everyday encounters that ethnographers interested in labor are keen on exploring. Our proposed panel will build up the middle ground between macro- and ethnography-based traditions. In order to attend to how commodity chains reconfigure spaces of production and distribution, as well as centers of accumulation and control, we are looking for ethnography-based contributions coming from scholars who, broadly speaking, engage in the study of global commodity chains by conducting research at global workplaces (i.e. localized industries that are centrally tied into large-scale economic processes). Some issues to be discussed in conjunction with a focus on the commodity are labor flexibility and precarity, work insecurity, new sources of social fragmentation, and novel repertoires of resistance. We also invite methodological reflections on the perks and perils of studying commodity chains from an anthropological perspective.