Knowledge flows across global commodity supply chains: circulations and asymmetries

Izabela Delabre (University of Sussex)
Pauline von Hellermann (Goldsmiths)
Advocacy and Activism

Short abstract:

Through global supply chains, growers, traders and consumers are intimately connected, yet different agents' knowledge about each other is often limited and partial. This panel brings together diverse papers to explore imaginatively the asymmetries and circulations of knowledge across supply chains.

Long abstract:

As consumers, we are all intimately connected across the globe: so much of what we eat, drink and use every day was grown, harvested, mined or made in other, often far-away places in the world. In recent decades, largely through the efforts of investigative journalists, activists and academics, there has been growing awareness amongst consumers in the West and elsewhere of the perpetuation of global inequalities these global supply chains can entail, and of the - often devastating - social and ecological impacts of modern capitalism and consumerism. Consumer awareness and activism have led to both boycotting campaigns and certification efforts, such as the Fairtrade Movement or the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which seek to provide transparency and accountability; as well as the emergence of alternative food networks. Yet despite these efforts, there remain significant limitations to what different agents know about each other, and real discrepancies between different forms of knowledge, imaginings and discourses. This panel seeks to explore the knowledges and imaginations of different agents in global supply chains - producers, consumers, traders, activists, academics - and how they relate to each other. By exploring the commodity flow/knowledge nexus in different and imaginative ways, this panel addresses questions like: • What roles do different supply chain actors play in shaping knowledge, myths and discourses? • If all knowledge is limited and partial, what does that mean for the quest for fair and sustainable global trade? • How do anthropology and geography think about supply chains as disciplines?