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book spotlight: global markets and local crafts

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A new book addresses the craft economy in a global age and should be of interest to social scientists interested in how culture and globalization impact economic production. Global Markets and Local Crafts, by Michigan’s Frederick Wherry, is an ethnographic account of how craft shops in Thailand and Costa Rica are integrated into global chains of production. It’s a solid contribution to the decades long debate over the nature of craft economies in the modern world.This book maps the different pressures experienced by craft makers. Based on his fieldwork in these two countries, Wherry explains exactly how culture shapes the link between the craft workers and the global market where Westerners buy their products. Much of it is a story of how various actors (artisans, political elites, buyers) deploy the cultural and institutional resources at their disposal to make the emerging craft economy fit their agenda. It’s definitely in the Zelizer camp, where you study the ways culture plays out in different economic contexts.

The book also compliments discussion of national culture with discussions of the social organization of craft shops, so you understand how local social control dovetails with the market situation as defined by buyers and art collectors.In the end, Wherry doesn’t provide a master narrative of this kind of economy, but instead gives the readers a sort of recipe book for explaining local variation in production, life course, and integration with the global economy. It’s sort of an inverse to the statistical “variable” centered approach to things. Instead of explaining averages and trends, his “three F’s” (cultural force, product flows and framing) define the range of possible kinds of response that craft makers have to globalization, which suggests the next step in cultural economic sociology. Recommended!

Written by fabiorojas

March 28, 2008 at 1:00 am

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  1. […] Fred Wherry: Global Markets and Local Crafts […]

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  2. […] at the University of Michigan who studies globalization, culture and markets. We reviewed his book on craft markets here. Nina is a sociologist at UC Irvine. She’s published on the global economy in ASR, Theory and […]

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