International and inter-disciplinary workshop

(Inter-)disciplinary perspectives on practices of valuation

The workshop aims at stimulating an open discussion around the topic of the social construction of value generated in the course of the research project “Geographies of dissociation: Practices of value creation from a spatial perspective” running from mid-2015 to late 2017.
The main idea of this research project is to combine two prominent approaches of recent economic geography that both have focused on value creation though from different angles and with specific strengths and limitations.

In the cultural geographic discourse, contributors highlight that commodities achieve high prices on markets if they are successfully associated with entities representing positive, extra-economic values, e.g. the association between sports gear and a basketball star. However, complementary processes, which mainly aim at hiding away problematic aspects of commodities (‘dissociation’), e.g. disconnecting the t-shirt from the working conditions in a sweat shop, so far have been glossed over.
The global value chain and global production network approaches pay attention to how and under which conditions products are created, but do not focus on the social construction of value. The price of a good is regarded as a measure to assess the distribution of value capturing among producers, but prices themselves are largely taken for granted. The very process how value is constructed remains obscure.

In general the former approaches are more interested in consumption while the latter approaches tend to focus stronger on production.
Empirically, the project studies practices of valuation taking the example of the global fur industry. A wide range of qualitative data has been collected through ethnographic observations in sites of fur production, trade and consumption across the world, as well as interviews with actors and experts. To better understand interplay between associations and dissociations we combine the political-economic perspective on value creation as elaborated in the global production network approach with cultural geographic and sociological approaches of the social construction of value.

The project makes a conceptual contribution to the above mentioned discourses by developing a framework encompassing associations and dissociations as equally important mechanisms working together in the social construction of economic value. Economic valuation, we argue, depends on relational work through which commodities and services are brought into association with other entities representing extra-economic value. While there is now a growing body of literature on geographies of association and the geographies of brands and branding (cf. Pike 2015), arguably less attention has been paid to the geographies of dissociation. The latter refers to the relational work undertaken to create value that encompasses practices of hiding away potentially problematic aspects of a commodity from the consumers’ awareness and to actively conceal references between a product and service and the conditions under which it has been processed.

The aim of this international workshop is to open up the discussion on associations and dissociations to a wider spectrum of disciplines and to discuss the topic across several empirical fields. We thus invited internationally leading specialists from geography, sociology, business studies, anthropology, and psychology for an inter-disciplinary dialogue in order to explore the nature of the dialectics of associations and dissociation in the construction of economic value. Moreover, we hope to enhance generalizability of the concepts by discussing the validity across several empirical fields.  Moreover, the workshop seeks to validate preliminary results from the research project. Participants are therefore invited to give short interventions from their experiences gathered in different empirical fields and to comment on project outcomes.

Confirmed participants and their disciplines

Patrick Aspers, Sociology – University of Uppsala
Taylor Brydges, Economic Geography – University of Uppsala
Olivier Crévoisier, Sociology – Universitè de Neuchatel
Louise Crewe, Economic Geography – University of Nottingham
Amna Kirmani, Psychology of Consumption and Marketing – University of Maryland
Jana M. Kleibert, Economic Geography – Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Erkner
Mark Lorenzen, Economic Geography and Business Studies – Copenhagen Business School
Felix C. Müller, Economic Geography – Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Erkner
Suzanne Reimer, Economic Geography – University of Southampton


International and inter-disciplinary workshop