Economic Ordering for Multiple Values
Edited by Susi Geiger, Debbie Harrison, Hans Kjellberg and Alexandre Mallard
Chapter 8: Articulating matters of concern in markets: (en)tangling goods, market agencies and overflows
This chapter explores matters of concern and how they are articulated in markets. It centres on a coffee market connecting smallholder farmers in Uganda to an exporter called Good African Company (GAC). Of note in this setting are the attempts of the exporter to realize a version of the coffee market (which we will term ‘the GAC market’), which is significantly different from the currently available mainstream market alternative for farmers (the sellers of coffee). Specifically, the GAC market involves the buying and selling of a more refined product: wet-processed coffee beans or parchment. To the farmers, however, coffee represents much more than just its material qualities; its value cannot be disentangled from its main use as a source of funding for educating their children. Hence, the role of education in the valuation of coffee becomes a matter of concern. Responding to the call for research into subsistence marketplaces within the Market Studies domain (Lindeman, 2012), we draw attention to the market-making activities involving individuals who are earning barely sustainable incomes (Viswanathan and Rosa, 2010), who in our case are smallholder farmers. Following Viswanathan and Rosa (2010), we take a bottom-up approach to investigate the micro-level practices of buyers and sellers involved in the GAC market. We direct attention to the nature of matters of concern in this market; to the ‘troubling, partially unknown’ entanglements (Marres, 2007, p. 762), which threaten to disrupt market orderings (Latour, 2009).
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