Global Markets vs. Local Realities Essay

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Global Markets vs. Local Realities

"What happens to commodities when they cross cultural borders?" Howes' recent edited volume, Cross-Cultural Consumption, sets out explicitly to answer this very question. Through a diverse and highly accessible set of collected papers, inspired and adapted from a special issue of Anthropogie et Sociitis on "Culture and Consumption," the reader finds an excellent introduction to the major themes in the anthropological approach to consumption. Situated squarely within the booming literature on the globalization of consumer society, the papers in this volume are expressly geared towards students of consumer studies from a range of disciplines. Howes makes his objectives clear - this book is actually
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"The Mirror of Consumption" addresses the popular anthropological theme wherein Western goods are incorporated into non-Western cultural contexts. The second and more intriguing section "Consuming the Other" takes a more novel approach by examining the ways in which non-Western goods move in the Western world. Finally, "Consumption and Identity"focuses on strategies for resisting capitalist penetration.

The chapters that follow cover a broad range of continents, countries and cultures. Given the complexity of the issues, it is odd that the authors describe their project in terms of such delineated boundaries. In constructing the concept of "cross-cultural consumption", Howes, et. al. begin from the premise that cultures indeed have borders and that consumer goods typically originate from within only one given set of "cultural borders.' By posing the question "what happens when the culture of production and the culture are not the same," they construct a model of commodity transmission which fails to recognize that consumer goods themselves are always already hybrid products whose constitution reflects multiple cultural zones well before they enter the consumption spaces discussed in this book.

Three chapters by Classen, Comaroff, and Philibert and Jourdan, form the first and least evocative set of studies. Essentially these are treatises in the localization' genre, without the depth and acumen of many
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