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

Alison Hulme



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Bloomsbury Academic
29 April 2020
Manufacturing industries; Retail sector; Human geography
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.
By:   Alison Hulme
Imprint:   Bloomsbury Academic
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 13mm
Weight:   100g
ISBN:   9781472572851
ISBN 10:   1472572858
Pages:   172
Publication Date:   29 April 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
PrefaceIntroduction: Eight Bargain Store Commodities and their Journeys1. The Dump: Shanghai and Tianjin as Graveyards and Birthplaces of Commodities2. The 'Commodity City': Yiwu, the World's Factory of Bargains3. The Container Port: The Abundant Spaces of Felixstowe and Los Angeles4. The Bargain Store: Buying and Selling in the West's Spaces of 'Cheap' Conclusion: ... And Back to the Dump?BibliographyIndex

Alison Hulme is a Teaching Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK; a Guest Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK and University College Dublin, Ireland; and Visiting Fellow at University of Otago, New Zealand.

Reviews for On the Commodity Trail: The Journey of a Bargain Store Product from East to West

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 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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