Commodity Frontiers

Journal Information
ISSN / EISSN : 2667-243X / 2667-2448
Published by: Wageningen UR Facilitair Bedrijf (10.18174)
Total articles ≅ 27
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Allan S. Queiroz
Commodity Frontiers pp 41-47; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18083

Abstract:
Since the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018, Brazil's ruling classes - who have always disputed labor regulations and protections with the complicity of state authorities - reorganized themselves around an authoritarian project of power. This project is widely backed by agribusiness and industrialists, given Bolsonaro’s promises to boost market freedoms by reducing social and labor rights. In this article I focus on the case of the sugarcane plantations of Alagoas, Northeast Brazil, where I have been carrying out fieldwork since 2012 to explore a couple of questions around labor precarity and job formalization using oral history interviews, documents, and labor process observations. Between May and August 2019, I returned to the field to undertake exploratory fieldwork about the consequences of the labor reform in terms of the working conditions and rights of the sugarcane cutters.
Maarten Vanden Eynde
Commodity Frontiers pp 33-40; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18082

Abstract:
In the framework of the 2nd Commodity Frontiers Initiative Journal with the theme of ‘Stimulants’ I could not have wished for a better-suited match to interview than Roger M. Buergel and Sophia Prinz from the Johann Jacobs Museum, which owes its existence to the coffee and cacao trade, but more importantly is unique in its endeavour to lay bare the intrinsically interwoven histories of commodities. The museum is dedicated to the global interdependencies of our life-world that become especially clear when tracing the history of important trade goods and their transport routes. Products such as coffee, cocoa, petroleum, opium, sugar, silk, watches and diamonds have had a hand in shaping our planet, impacted cultures and revolutionized societies.
Claudia Bernardi
Commodity Frontiers pp 60-63; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18085

Abstract:
This section aims to improve communications between initiatives, artists, activists, scholars, and research groups engaged in the study and politics of commodity frontiers. Here you will find the latest news recommended by people from the Commodity Frontiers Initiative. This is a first selection, and we would be happy to add further events on our website, in social media, and in future volumes of Commodity Frontiers. Please send your announcements to Claudia Bernardi ([email protected]), or contact us through the website, Twitter, or Facebook.
Hannah Elliott, Martin Skrydstrup
Commodity Frontiers pp 16-23; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18080

Abstract:
In Kenya, tea is a “political crop” (Ochieng 2007). Tea is one of Kenya’s largest exports and is an important foreign exchange earner and source of revenue. At the same time, tea is key to the livelihoods many smallholder farmers in central Kenya and west of the Rift Valley, so that the price of tea is a recurrent focus of political campaigns. Keenly aware of tea’s political and economic value, county governments grapple with the national government over tea policy, while key industry actors challenge and resist attempts at reform. These politics around the “true” price of tea are situated in and regenerated through the infrastructures through which Kenyan tea is produced, processed and marketed.
Serena Stein, Katie Sandwell
Commodity Frontiers pp 24-32; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18081

Abstract:
Today, many zones of cultivation for plants like coca, khat, kratom, and cannabis are thriving, in some cases despite protracted, violent, and lethal attempts at containment through state re-territorialization -- and often, state terror. These plants straddle the borders of legality in many places where they are grown, participating in the cultivation of agriculture frontiers characterized by uncertain and unpredictable openings and closings, and changing distributions of harms among plants and human communities. Scholars and activists question the ideology and efficacy of transnational and state programs to eradicate crops and criminalize farmers, bringing new attention to these commodities and the impacts of their contested legal status. There is also a rising appreciation of indigenous and traditional cultivation and of the importance of decolonizing uses of plants, against backdrops of botanical speculation, piracy, colonization, and trauma. Finally, these illicit agricultural frontiers stand to be dramatically reconfigured by changes potential to drug law regimes. For this essay, we invited three scholars to comment on the frontiers of coca, khat, and kratom where they have long been embedded in research: Asmin Fransiska (hereafter AF) in Indonesia, Lisa Gezon (hereafter LG) in Madagascar, and Kristina Lyon (hereafter KL) in Colombia. We, the authors, edited these comments, and put them into a conversation exploring illicit crop frontiers today, and what is shared and distinct among these frontiers, the frictions and countermovements within them, and their actual or potential connections to broader agrarian movements. As we relay the commentaries, we offer a few contours of what (il)licit crops frontiers bring to our understanding of uneven and unequal histories of capitalism and the unending drive for crop commodities in marginal landscapes. We offer a brief typology of these frontiers to punctuate the conversation, and some directions for ongoing study.
Elisabet Dueholm Rasch
Commodity Frontiers pp 5-9; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18077

Abstract:
Paul Gootenberg is SUNY Distinguished Professor of History and Sociology at Stony Brook University (New York) and Chair of History. He is a global commodity and drug historian trained as a Latin Americanist at the University of Chicago and Oxford. His works include Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug (UNC Press, 2008), Cocaine: Global Histories (Routledge, 1999) and with Liliana M. Dávalos, The Origins of Cocaine: Peasant Colonization and Failed Development in the Amazon Andes (Routledge, 2018). From 2011-14 he chaired the Drugs, Security and Democracy fellowship (DSD) of the Soros Open Society Foundation and Social Science Research Council. Gootenberg is General Editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Drug History and President-elect 2021of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society (ADHS). He regularly teaches courses at Stony Brook about the history of commodities and drugs. What follows is an edited transcript of an interview he had with Elisabet Rasch one of the editors of the Teaching Commodity Frontiers section, in February 2021.
Erich Landsteiner, Ernst Langthaler
Commodity Frontiers pp 48-53; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18076

Abstract:
Focusing on coca, coffee, gold, soy, sugar, and tea, articles in a special issue of the Austrian Journal of Historical Studies 30/3 (2019) on Global Commodities aim at tracing the emergence of commodity chains through the expansion and contraction of commodity frontiers. Frontier shifts imply complex – and potentially conflicting – interactions shaped by as well as shaping socio-natural systems. Thus, the contributions reveal commodity chains and their frontiers to be subject to negotiations between multiple actors, both human and non-human. Each of the contributions concentrates on one or more world region(s) of frontier shifts, while taking into account the transregional, transnational, and transcontinental connections via commodity chains. Thereby, these commodity-focused histories reveal the benefit of combining global with regional or even local perspectives (Joseph, 2019).
Robert Fletcher
Commodity Frontiers pp 54-59; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18084

Abstract:
In this op-ed, Robert Fletcher reviews The Dasgupta Review, a report commissioned by the UK Treasury Department on The Economics of Biodiversity, which was released in February 2021. Fletcher argues that rather than offering a fresh or timely analysis of biodiversity loss and how to counter it, the Review continues a long line of similar reports that leave capitalism in the background as a given, and lay blame for what ails the world at the feet of "population." Such disavowed capital-centric Malthusianism, Fletcher argues, renders the popular report a distraction from desperately needed analyses of the political economy of biodiversity loss.
Jelmer Vos
Commodity Frontiers pp 1-4; https://doi.org/10.18174/cf.2021a18078

Abstract:
Coffee plantations were unquestionably one of the defining features of Angola’s colonial landscape. From the 1870s to independence, coffee was the main export of this former Portuguese colony, barring a couple of intervals during which rubber and diamonds held first place. During this time, Angola ranked consistently among the world’s largest robusta producers, which it might still have been today had the country’s civil war (1975-2002) not made commercial farming all but impossible. In Angolan popular memory, coffee occupies an ambivalent position: for some people it brings up memories of colonial forced labor, while others recollect stories of successful family farms. My research project, “Coffee and Colonialism in Angola, 1820-1960,” aims to reconstruct the multiple, intertwined realities behind these contrasting memories. Focusing on northern Angola, where smallholding and estate farming always coexisted, it investigates how African farmers, colonial settlers, foreign traders, and global consumers shaped one of the oldest commercial coffee frontiers in sub-Saharan Africa. In doing so, it reflects on the question to what extent “colonialism” is the proper lens through which to study the history of coffee cultivation in Angola.
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