Social Relations and Commodity Chains: The Live Reef Fish for Food Trade

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This paper considers the relationship between anthropology and the interdisciplinary field of commodity studies through an examination of an important commodity chain in the Asia-Pacific, the live reef fish for food trade. Using an ethnographic perspective, I focus on how particular social relationships within this commodity chain have significant implications for two key concerns of commodity studies—the distribution of benefits through commodity chains and how commodity chains are regulated. The social relationships between fishers and traders provide a powerful avenue for relative economic prosperity for fishers, yet the forms of social relationships that operate between fishers, traders and regulators mean that regulation of the trade is not being implemented. This analysis provides an example of how an ethnographic lens can provide a useful perspective that can contribute to an interdisciplinary dialogue on commodity chains.