Ongoing since 2020

Commodity Frontiers Initiative

The Commodity Frontiers Initiative (CFI) is a network of scholars, research teams, artists, and civil society organizations from all over the world. With more than 25 partner institutes, CFI collaborators have been working extensively on global commodity production, rural societies, labor history, the history of capitalism, and social and ecological frictions and capitalist fixes in the global countryside. Collaborators have published some of the most important books, articles, and reports in their fields. Together they are expert on a wide range of global commodities, covering all the principle producing regions of the world, from the early modern period to the present day, employing a range of approaches from social and economic history, anthropology, sociology, political science, ecology, and development studies. Enough Room for Space is working as Creative Editor for the CFI journal.


Partner institutes:

- The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable planet.

- The Centre for the Study of Regional Development (CSRD), New Delhi, is part of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a public university founded in 1969 that is ranked second in India (2018).

- The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) is a multidisciplinary centre that promotes academic research and postgraduate education in environmental sciences.

- National Council of Extractivist Populations – CNS, Brasil.

- The Centre for Environment and Development (CED) / Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement is a leading socio-environmental NGO based in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

- Karti Dhartiis a public interest research space that promotes the study of land, culture, and community in South Asia.

- MedIns enquires into the correlations between insular space and the development of economic structures in early modern Cyprus and Crete.

- The Berkeley Working Group on Environmental Politics, University of California, Berkeley, USA

- El Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, Económicas, Políticas y Antropológicas, CISEPA, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru

- Peru College of Humanities and Development Studies

- China Agricultural University

- China College of Sustainability Sciences and Humanities

- Zayed University, United Arab Emirates

- Commodities of Empire British Academy Research Project, University of London (SAS and SOAS)

- United Kingdom Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS)

- International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) and Erasmus University, The Hague, the Netherlands

- ‘Emerging Worlds’ Project at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

- Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO), University of Copenhagen, Denmark

- Department of Historical and Geographic Sciences and the Ancient World (DiSSGeA), University of Padua, Italy

- Economies, Comparisons Connections, Ghent University, Belgium

- Fernand Braudel Center, State University of New York, Binghamton, USA

- FIAN International, Germany

- Friends of the Earth International, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

- Global change—Local Conflicts (GLOCON), Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

- Human Ecology Division, Lund University, Sweden

- International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

- Institut de Ciència i Tecnologica Ambientals (ICTA), Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain

- Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen University, the Netherlands

- Interdisciplinary Commodity Studies, Johannes Kepler University Linz

The Commodity Frontiers Initiative aims to systematically catalogue, study and analyze a wide variety of commodity frontiers over the past 600 years. By providing a long historical perspective on problems that are often assumed to be modern, and linking historical and contemporary research, the Initiative endeavors to recast our thinking about issues of sustainability, resilience, and crisis and thus contribute to the politics of our own times.

The CFI operates through the leadership of Mindi Schneider (Brown University), Sven Beckert (Harvard University), Eric Vanhaute (Ghent University), and Ulbe Bosma (International Institute of Social History). Enough Room for Space is working as Creative Editor for the CFI journal.

We currently organize four main activities. First, the leadership’s agenda-setting article, Commodity frontiers and the transformation of the global countryside: a research agenda, was published in the Journal of Global History in 2021. The paper anchors our ongoing work in the CFI. Second, with our CFI Editorial Board, we publish a bi-annual journal called Commodity Frontiers that convenes multidisciplinary and multisectoral approaches to particular commodity frontiers, from mineral, to human bodies, to “renewable” energy. Third, we are compiling a Lexicon of commodity frontiers through a series of overtures and keyword conversations among international scholars. Finally, we are launching a series called Global Conversations on Commodity Frontiers that will explore new books, articles, and initiatives related to the Initiative.

Mission Statement

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, teaching, and engaging 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 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 in the Brown Digital Repository, at, and distributed through email subscriptions. Its editorial collective is committed to inclusive, anti-racist, anti-sexist, decolonial scholarship and politics.


Commodity Frontiers aims to provide “deep snippets” and accessible content from diverse perspectives on the past, present, and future of commodity frontiers and their dynamics. We feature research and educational activities undertaken by academics, artists, activists, and other civil society actors. By inviting short contributions from our multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral networks, and distributing the open-access Journal through our website and the Open Journal System, we aim to reach a broader audience than typical academic publishing allows. We strive for “real-time” reports and reflections on contemporary issues, as well as contributions that link the past and present.

Editorial Process

The articles in Commodity Frontiers are not double-blind peer-reviewed. Rather, Section Editors purposely invite contributions related to the theme of each issue from experts in respective fields. All articles are reviewed by Section Editors and at least one Editor-in-Chief.