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Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 3, April 2011
Activist Capitalism and Supply-Chain Citizenship
Producing Ethical Regimes and Ready-to-Wear Clothes by Damani James Partridge In this article I examine the new forms of citizenship that have resulted from the connections between the emergence of new corporate ethics (including fair trade) and outsourcing. The process I call “supply-chain citizenship” is based on a collection of long-distance promises of care that are economically and politically backed by transnational corporations. I analyze the trend toward what the New York Times recently called “activi[st]-capitalism” and how this move is changing relationships between corporations and consumers and consumers and people working along global corporate supply chains. This study builds on my previous research on workers’ bodies, citizenship, and sovereignty, now examined along global corporate supply axes. I observe the kinds of political mobilization that are coming into being as the result of links between corporate governance, negotiations between corporate and nation-state sovereignty, and the related setting and enforcement of global labor and environmental standards. In my investigation, I trace ethnical production from design houses to factory ﬂoors, from showrooms to department stores, and from NGO monitoring agencies to consumer protest networks.
This article examines the changing nature of citizenship since the fall of the Berlin Wall amid the emergence of new corporate practices such as fair trade, social responsibility, and what organizations such as the World Bank call “development.” From state-based forms to increasingly corporateorganized realities, citizenship is shifting, and sociocultural anthropologists are critically equipped to understand the everyday implications of these transformations. This article expands my previous research on workers’ bodies, citizenship, and sovereignty, which I now examine along global corporate supply chains. I have conducted this research since 2004 in places such as New York; New Delhi; Mumbai; Managua, Nicaragua; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Bonn, Germany, and visited design houses, showrooms, factory ﬂoors, NGO ofﬁces, compliance agencies, and ﬁve-star hotels. Ultimately, I ask what kinds of political mobilization are coming into being as the result of links between corporate governance, negotiations between corporate and nation-state sovereignty, and the related setting and recent enforcement of emerging labor and environmental standards. The...