Current Institutional Affiliation
LSA Collegiate Fellow, Anthropology, University of Michigan

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Yale University
Altering Asia's Banana Republic? The Making of an "Alternative" Supply Chain along the Pacific Rim

Across the Asia-Pacific, nation-states are anxiously anticipating major socio-economic changes brought about by the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership and the 2015 Association for Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Agreement. Where intensifying regional free trade regimes pressure the agricultural sectors to view more and more of the world in terms of monocrop plantation economies, this ethnographic project between Japan and the Philippines explores the making of a supply chain of a non-plantation commodity, the balangon banana. Biological properties that make this wild, highland Cavendish resistant to monocrop-style agriculture profoundly shift the dynamics of its supply chain. These new infrastructural networks offer growers, intermediaries and consumers alternative routes to political engagement and transnational solidarity. Through them, actors seek to alter the Philippines' trademark as "Asia's Banana Republic," and reimagine Japan's "neo-imperialist" relationship to Southeast Asia. This project adopts the "commodity chain" as a heuristic to track not only infrastructural but also moral geographies along the alternative pathways from harvest, packaging, transport, marketing, distribution through consumption, and back. In describing the dynamic relationship between agro-ecological crop systems, supply chain logistics, and political processes, this research aspires to contribute broadly to global commodity chains research, economic anthropology, and the anthropology of infrastructure in the inter-Asian region.