Picto Article

Chains of Meaning crops, commodities, and the 'in-between' spaces of trade


Both basmati rice in India and red rice in Madagascar have gained special export status in their respective countries, being more easily allowed to enter global commerce compared to other kinds of rice. Using a 'chains of meaning' framework that centers ethnographic and comparative analysis, we examine how basmati and red rice are both made 'exportable' in part through the negotiation of non-economic meanings by individuals operating in the 'in between' spaces of trade regulation. We note key differences between basmati and red rice regarding how actors situated along the commodity chain frame and negotiate the export process, especially with respect to regulatory, scalar, and material dimensions. The two case studies illustrate how the paths that seemingly similar specialty commodities pursue through global supply chains are neither linear nor interchangeable, but are rather mediated by broader cultural and social relationships. Attention to these relationships can strengthen programs in sustainable trade, as they facilitate commodity circulation across spheres of exchange.