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The place of disarticulations: global commodity production in La Laguna, Mexico

  • Political Science


Studies of the shifting social organization and geography of global garment production have been critical to the development of the commodity chains framework as an important field of study for scholars of political economy in various disciplines. Our paper intervenes in this literature by proposing what we call a ‘disarticulations’ perspective, an approach attentive to historical and spatial processes of accumulation, disinvestment and dispossession that produce the uneven geographies generative of transnational production networks. We make the case for disarticulations as an approach to commodity chains via a case study of a region in north-central Mexico called La Laguna—a celebrated center of export dynamism in the 1990s, following the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and of rapid decline in the 2000s. Rather than offer a conventional commodity chain analysis of the boom to bust cycle in La Laguna, which would look to the dynamics of the contemporary apparel chain to explain the causes and consequences of La Laguna’s NAFTA-era trajectory, we instead follow La Laguna’s ‘travels’ through the cotton, textile, and garment industries over 150 years. We show how the recent NAFTA-era boom was premised on this layered history of engagements with the cotton – textile – apparel commodity chain. The disarticulations approach to commodity chains that we develop here foregrounds the processes of dispossession, accumulation and disinvestment through which not only commodity chains, but the uneven geographies that are their conditions of possibility, are reproduced.

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