On the Commodity Trail: The Journey of a Bargain Store Product from East to West (Hardback)
  • On the Commodity Trail: The Journey of a Bargain Store Product from East to West (Hardback)
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On the Commodity Trail: The Journey of a Bargain Store Product from East to West (Hardback)

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£90.00
Hardback 176 Pages / Published: 26/02/2015
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Following the journey of eight bargain store objects, Alison Hulme reveals the complex story behind society's simplest and cheapest commodities. Inspired by Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project, On the Commodity Trail explores the colourful and fascinating histories of everyday objects. Along the way, we observe raw materials on municipal rubbish dumps in China, newly re-made products in the world's largest wholesale market, and take a journey across the seas, to bargain stores in Europe and North America, arriving finally in the homes of consumers. Weaving together narratives from the people we meet at different parts of the commodity chain - waste peddlers, wholesalers, store owners, and shoppers - the book examines the places and people at the heart of these localized yet immense global networks. Unlike other investigations of commodity chains, this study does not chart a straightforward trajectory from production to consumption. Instead, it demonstrates that the low-end commodity chain is one of constant rupture in which products are made and re-made, blurring the dividing line between producing and consuming. An ethnography of material culture as well as an examination of commodity culture at a time of economic downturn, this deeply-engrossing book makes a unique contribution to our understanding of commodity chains and consumer culture.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781472572868
Number of pages: 176
Weight: 407 g
Dimensions: 234 x 156 x 15 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
This thin volume traces the origins of cheap plastic goods in UK bargain shops backward to their origins in China. Hulme begins the trail with waste scavengers in Shanghai, then moves through the 'commodity city' of Yiwu where low-end goods are made, container ports and terminals, British retail outlets, and, finally, a small sample of shoppers ... the author's real engagement is with social theorists and philosophers, from Appadurai to Zizek, with a generally Marxist approach to consumer society focused on the concept of 'consumptive thrift.' The book's most interesting part explores the social meaning of the 'bargain.' ... the book would be very useful for graduate collections on globalization or theories of consumption. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students/faculty/professionals. -- R. R. Wilk, Indiana * CHOICE *
Hulme has created a thorough and intriguing ethnography ... [She] is to be commended for the respect, objectivity, and passion she brings to the various conversations across the journey. Furthermore, her writing style, one that includes historical ironies, and parallels between concepts and lived experience, have created a text accessible to a broad, curious readership. -- Susan Marie Martin * LSE Review of Books *
The book ... belongs to a coetaneous class of research pushing the boundaries of ethnographic venturing ... The book is erudite on the market economies of China and resplendent with careful empiricism. Close encounters with research subjects are a principal highlight. The book is easeful to read and evinces a mixture of empathy for, and inquisitive inquiry about, the fieldwork's cast of characters. -- Thomas Birtchnell, University of Wollongong, Australia * Consumption Markets and Culture *
On the Commodity Trail is interesting, thoughtful, even important ... The topic of discount stores and their relation to and impact on modern society, the book profitably shows, is one that anthropologists should investigate seriously. -- Jack David Eller * Anthropology Review Database *
The market as a lifeworld: Alison Hulme's timely study of the cheap commodity rethinks concepts such as reciprocity, community, contract, abundance and, in particular, bargain in the frenzy of globalized consumerism. Informed by anthropological, socioeconomic, and philosophical discussions as well as by ethnographic encounters, and written with admirable lucidity, this is a gem of a book. -- Rey Chow, Duke University, USA
Pet gravestones, ships in bottles, pregnancy testing kits: poundstore goods made in China and the un-followable commodities that Alison Hulme follows so magnificently. Connecting materials salvaged from trash, moulds swapped by manufacturers and cheap things richly valued by shoppers, her book vividly analyses how austerity is shaping a booming international trade. -- Ian Cook, University of Exeter, UK
In this wonderful Arcades Project of pound stores, Alison Hulme traverses the low-end reality of globalization's shattered hopes. Taking us from London to China and back, she traces the unstable supply chains that guarantee an austerity-era "lightness of being", new patterns of consumption predicated on price points, and a phantasmagoria of commodities that begins and ends in waste. There is much to learn from the descriptive power and critical energy of this compelling and important document. -- Christopher Pinney, University College London, UK
In this fast paced account of low-end commodity trade, Alison Hulme takes us on an exciting journey across the world. Moving from the pound shops of London to the backstreets of Yiwu, China, it captures the frenzied, exciting, raw and sometimes disturbing, stories behind the cheap trinkets on our discount shop shelves. -- Michael Dutton, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

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