Commodity Chains of Latin America

This course serves as an introduction to the history of Latin American commodities and their links to the rest of the world. The idea or model of ‘commodity chains,’ first articulated by Immanuel Wallerstein and Terence Hopkins in 1977, allows us to examine not only production of raw and manufactured materials but also to trace their linkages through transport and consumption abroad. The chains do not only ‘link up’ one-way, nor has Latin America only produced raw materials. We will take a close look at commodities as material goods to be traded in the world market, but our main interest is in the people involved in and affected by their production, circulation, and consumption. The point is to examine and compare Latin America’s longstanding and ever-shifting global commodity connections or ‘en-chainments,’ with an eye toward consequences (including the unintended) and opportunities: social, political, environmental, or economic. How, for example, have Latin American commodities sparked human chain migrations, both forced and free? How have they helped to prop or topple states? How have they served to challenge borders?