Chapter 1 Summary:
In the first chapter, Chan uses the local context of Chulucanas, Peru in order to illustrate tensions between the local and the global which come with a neoliberal focus on global capital. The city of Chulacanas recieved a DO (denomination of origin) from the Peruvian government, which is essentially an identifying trademark of certification for ceramics from the area. These ceramics are made in a pre-columbian tradition using locally-sourced materials, so they are highly sought after across the world.
However, along with this DO came people who were sent to help ceramics artisans in Chulacanas strategize for appealing to global buyers. As you might imagine, this involved convincing the local artists to be more competitive in price and more efficient in how they produced these ceramics. The artisans had to learn how to be savvy businesspeople as well as artists. Chan’s argument is nuanced, though, in presenting the effects of the DO. Though these events changed the artisans’ relationship to their work and one another, one thing to which she frequently returns is that many of the people who were helping local artists to make these changes have actually ended up being closely connected with Chulacanas and advocating for the artisans and their community.
Ultimately, the DO has helped the city’s trade in ceramics to flourish; new artisans flock there to work and make a name for themselves in striking deals with global buyers. From a purely economic standpoint, the program has been a success. Chan is dubious, however, about some of the effects of the DO program: global markets have had their impact on the local community (I highly suggest that you read Chan’s conclusions on 50-51) and possibly disrupted a community of practice. Because the neoliberal project assumes that people can succeed through their own effort if they are willing, this type of program has created winners and losers on a massive scale.
- How might we characterize the relationship between the local community in Chulacanas and the global market of buyers/collectors who are after these ceramics?
- What are all of the ways in which the DO and the global markets which come with it interacted with Peruvian and Chulacanas culture?