Fall 2021

Life Stock Frontiers – CFI Issue 3

Commodity Frontiers Journal, Online

Commodity Frontiers is a biannual open access publication from the network of the Commodity Frontiers Initiative. With thematic focus, each issue of the journal features short articles, conversations with historians, social scientists, and activists about the method and practice of commodity frontier research, announcements of newly published books and articles, and more.

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Editorial Board
Mindi Schneider, Senior Editor

Editors-in-Chief
Sven Beckert, Ulbe Bosma, Mindi Schneider, Eric Vanhaute

Section Editors

Feature Article - Kristina Dietz, Bettina Engels

Studying Commodity Frontiers - Samuël Coghe, Shaohua Zhan

Teaching Commodity Frontiers - Gayatri A. Menon, Elisabet Rasch

Historians take on the Present - Mamoudou Sy, Simon Jackson

Commodity Frontier Political Ecology - Andrew Curley, Mattias Borg Rasmussen

Conflicts, Frictions, and Counternarratives - Katie Sandwell, Serena Stein

Creative Frontiers - Maarten Vanden Eynde & Marjolijn Dijkman (Enough Room for Space)

Labor Frontiers - Kristina Dietz, Bettina Engels

From the Field - Hanne Cottyn, Sthandiwe Yeni

Publications - Ernst Langthaler, Rafael Marquese

Op-Eds - Mindi Schneider

Lexicon  - Claudia Bernardi, Hanne Cottyn, Eric Vanhaute

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Commodity Frontiers is the Journal of the Commodity Frontiers Initiative (CFI). Edited by a group of scholars and researchers from various disciplines and organizations in the CFI Network, Commodity Frontiers explores the history and present of capitalism, contestation, and ecological transformation in the global countryside.

Each themed issue includes articles and interviews with experts about studying and teaching commodity frontiers in theory and in practice. The Journal features reflections and reviews on the dynamics of capitalist expansion, social change, and ecological transformation on global as well local scales, in the past and at the present.

Contributors include historians, social scientists, (political) ecologists, artists, and activists who work on global commodity production and circulation, rural societies, labor history, the history of capitalism, social metabolism, and contemporary politics, conflicts, and counternarratives in the countryside.

Commodity Frontiers endeavors to carry out one of the central goals of the CFI: to provide long historical perspectives on problems that are often assumed to be modern, and to link historical and contemporary research to recast our thinking about sustainability, resilience, and crisis.

Commodity Frontiers is a biannual open-access publication housed at commodityfrontiers.com, and distributed through email subscriptions. Its editorial collective is committed to inclusive, anti-racist, anti-sexist, decolonial scholarship and politics.

Detail from the cover of Issue 3, 2021

Commodity Frontiers Initiative explores the history and present of capitalism, contestation, and ecological transformation in the global countryside. Each themed issue includes articles and interviews with experts about studying and teaching commodity frontiers in theory and in practice. The Journal features reflections and reviews on the dynamics of capitalist expansion, social change, and ecological transformation on global as well local scales, in the past and at the present.

Issu 3 : In this issue of Commodity Frontiers, contributors take up issues relating to animals, livestock, and livestock production through a commodity frontiers lens. Fueled by increasing (local, national, imperial, and global) livestock production “developments” and demands for livestock products—most notably (but not only) meat—and reinforced by technoscientific innovations, new livestock frontiers have emerged and spread across the globe. With livestock frontiers we mean both processes and sites in which animals are bred, reared, cured, traded, and commodified in novel ways, by re-allocating land, labour, capital, knowledge, and other resources, to enhance productivity and maximize gains. By doing so, livestock frontiers have changed human-animal and interhuman social relations, economic systems, and ecological landscapes in various and often unintended ways. Furthermore, livestock frontiers have become deeply entangled with frontiers in agriculture, securing the production of fodder crops such as soy and corn. These changes include, but are not limited to, the industrialization of livestock production that we discussed above.

This edition features several interviews, including Maarten Vanden Eynde's interview with Christien Meindertsma, the Dutch designer who has researched and wrote a book called Pig 05049 which relates the many consumer products made from a pig called 05049. They discuss Meindertsma’s motivations for making the book and reflect on some of the challenges of promoting and brining about social change regarding meat (and other) consumption.

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Fragment from the introduction by Mindi Schneider and Samuël Coghe

" The word "livestock" itself suggests the reduction of animals as living things to animals as economic goods. Disaggregating the term into its component parts—live and stock—also suggest the difficulty of rendering things that are alive into things that are stocked, especially on large or predicable scales. The be alive is biological; living things breathe, eat, defecate, move, sleep, grow, reproduce, connect with others, get sick, die. To be stock, on the other hand, is economic; stocks are things held and exchanged. In capitalist relations specifically, livestock (and livestock parts) are owned, quantified, rationalized, commodified, specialized, simplified, contracted, accumulated, speculated upon, traded, sold.

Ongoing attempts to make living things into stocks, or commodities, are rife with contradictions and impossibilities. Fundamentally, biological bodies are barriers to accumulation. The unruliness of living stocks—including their biological needs, the
time they take to grow and mature, their propensities toward genetic diversity, and their vulnerabilities in environments where diversity is strictly denied—make them particularly difficult to standardize and simplify for the market. Just as Karl Polanyi (1944) unveiled the fiction of land, labor, and money as commodities, animals must join this list. (...)

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