Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, 21-25 April 2015, Chicago

Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, 21-25 April 2015, Chicago

 Topologies of Power: (Re-)Making Global Production Networks

 Session organisers: Martin Hess, Rory Horner and Gale Raj-Reichert (University of Manchester)

Over the last two decades, the concepts of global commodity chains (GCC), global value chains (GVC) and global production networks (GPN) have become quite powerful analytical frameworks with which to explore the changing landscapes of economic globalisation and its associated developmental outcomes. Since their inception, a central concern has been with the governance of inter-firm relations and the asymmetrical distribution of power between firms. The initial taxonomy developed in this context distinguished between buyer-driven and producer-driven commodity chains (Gereffi and Korzeniewicz 1994), later to be refined into a typology of global value chain governance models (Gereffi, Humphrey and Sturgeon 2005). While such taxonomies have proven useful to identify and analyse this important aspect of the distribution of power between firms within GPNs, the increasing complexity of contemporary production systems does not always conform to this limited perspective and scope of understanding of power relationships. While providing insight into some fundamental power configurations within GPNs, these types of chain-driving and inter-firm governance structures are still quite crude, obscuring the multiplicity of power relations between firms and non-firm actors within a GPN. Too often they do not include an appreciation of power relations in GPNs extending beyond inter-firm exchange, and actors which also are crucial for the configuration, dynamics and governance of GPNs, namely states, non-governmental organizations, civil society and consumers (Coe, Dicken and Hess 2008).

Meanwhile, various firm and non-firm actors continue to engage with, and seek to assert their influence, within and against global production networks. States are implementing new forms of industrial policy, labour unions seek agency, and non-governmental organisations and civil society contest processes of value creation, enhancement and capture. Meanwhile global production networks continue to be subject to various economic, environmental, geopolitical, health, and security concerns. This being said, there has been some encouraging progress in developing more nuanced understandings of power, governance and governmentality in GCC/GVC/GPN research (cf. Gibbon, Bair and Ponte 2008; Ponte and Sturgeon 2014). Arguably, however, there is still a need to explore in more detail the topologies of power that (re-)make the spatialities and temporalities of GPNs and the different ways of “thinking through the capacity of different social actors to configure space-time presences and absences in particular ways” (Latham 2011: 313). Because power exists and is exercised in different forms and by different types and configurations of actors, a broadening of our understanding of power in GPNs is necessary for deeper analyses into the origins, dynamics and evolution of global systems of production, consumption and waste.

Inspired by the work on geographies of power (e.g. Allen 2003, 2011, forthcoming 2015; Collier 2009; Ong 2007; Ong and Collier 2008; Prince and Dufty 2009), this session aims to provide a platform for the investigation of various approaches to power (realist, networked, diagrammatic, etc.) in analyses of GPNs.

We welcome conceptual as well as theoretically informed empirical papers addressing (but not limited to) one or more of the following topics:

  • GPNs as global assemblages
  • Technologies of power and government in GPNs
  • States, power, and graduated sovereignty in GPNs
  • Contested politics of GPN governance
  • Struggle and resistance in GPNs
  • Governing the workplace in GPNs
  • Novel conceptual and theoretical approaches to inter-firm relationships of power
  • Governmentality and Foucauldian approaches to power
  • Countervailing powers in GPNs

Anyone interested in presenting a paper in this session should submit an abstract of up to 250 words to Martin Hess ( ), Rory Horner ( ) and Gale Raj-Reichert ( ) by Friday 3rd October 2014.

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