Society & Space Book Review:: Uneven trading: Gieseking on Harris

My most recent book review of Tina HarrisGeographical Diversions: Tibetan Trade, Global Transactions (UGA Press) is now up on the Society & Space website.

Geographical Diversions is a well written ethnographic contribution to the study of mobilities, fixities, and trade, with a focus on trade routes in Nepal, Tibet (or Tibetan Autonomous Region, i.e. TAR), India, and China. In her first monograph, anthropologist and geographer Tina Harris traces the “properties, spatial origins, and trajectories of commodities” that serve to fix some geographies while rendering others mobile and free. Moving between ethnographic thick descriptions of traders’ precarious stop and start movements over dangerous and shifting routes, dull-yet-revitalized British colonial diaries, local and international newspaper clippings and archival records, and interviews with traders, the book is a dialogue between geocultural and geopolitical economies of those living and trading across national, regional, and local scales. Unable to reproduce Owen Lattimore’s mandate to “follow the thing” due to wildly shifting border policies, legalities, and regulations, Harris wisely devotes her attention to traders’ experiences with commodities. Ranging from dvd players to tsampa, and from toilet paper to cement, commodities enable Harris to grasp the ways in which traders manage the meaning of their goods “acting as crucial nodes in the paths of things” (54).

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