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For this Contrahilo edition we have decided to use a different methodology. Based upon Spanish photographer Belén Cerezo’s work regarding globalisation and its relationship to fashion, we invited Chilean sociologist Tomás Ariztia to reflect on what we consider relevant to the production of fashion worldwide.

THE JOURNEY OF THINGS. Reflections on Belen Cerezo’s photographic series “Made in” by Tomás Ariztía.

Globalisation is something we very often take for granted. This is how the forces of globalisation -abstract, general, but at the same time fiercely real -impose themselves on our daily life. Small shops in neighbourhoods close down, giving way to Walmart Stores, the local shoe industry retreats in defeat and containers from China are welcomed, politicians sign free trade agreements and participate in international negotiation rounds and invoke globalisation as a challenge which must be, depending on the government in office, resisted or enthusiastically joined. Meanwhile, cheap travel options multiply, although weirdly enough the destinations they offer become increasingly similar. This is without a doubt due to the forces of growth to a worldwide scale. Local cultures do not stand a chance against the hegemony of consumer culture. The valuable local way of life is devastated by the abstract universalism of marketing and advertising, which the middle classes in the developing world seem eager to embrace.

There is nothing wrong with this rhetoric, except for one minor problem: it happens to take for granted precisely what must be explained. In other words, it accepts globalisation as an unbeatable abstract force. I consider that the role of the social sciences, arts and humanities amidst globalisation -a contemporary experience- is to do precisely the opposite. Instead of simply accepting it as a fact - ‘a mysterious force that attacks us’- it is urgent to ask ourselves questions about what constitutes the ‘global’. I use the term constitute, because what is global is not preexistent, but it is produced and constructed on a daily basis.

THE JOURNEY OF THINGS. Reflections on Belen Cerezo’s photographic series “Made in” by Tomás Ariztía.

Therefore the challenge is to trace and think about the multiple global crossroads, dislocations and paths. I think it is about mapping, making visible and photographing the way things and people end up being or stop being global.The questions that arise are many: What becomes global and what doesn’t? How does the global and the local differentiate from each other and how is a scale to measure it created? Is ‘the local’ a residue of the irresistible forces of ever- expanding capitalism? Or may it be that globalisation, as an abstract concept- widely used by sociologists by the way- is nowhere to be found and what has to be mapped instead, are the multiple connections, microstructures and network of objects, people and knowledge, which connect or disconnect in order to mundanely give shape to what we understand as global? I am inclined towards this last hypothesis.

If there’s is a point to this mapping and cartography enterprise. A good place to begin, without a doubt, would be with objects, particularly the merchandise that travels around the world. We tend to accept objects as a secondary aspect of our social world, however, just as Karen Knorr Cetina states, objects (not only consumer goods, but also technological and scientific ones) constitute a focal point in the construction of our world. As a matter of fact, following Latour, one could think of social life precisely in terms of an increasing proliferation of subject/object hybrids.

It becomes very relevant to embark on the task of mapping the life of objects that travel around the globe. Following Appadurai, complex social forms and knowledge that accompany objects in their production, distribution and consumption can be found in this journey. As a matter of fact, just as it has been ascertained by geographers and historians of consumerism, from the origins of modern age and colonial exploitation, this type of objects have been central to connecting different worlds, not only at an economic level but also in terms of values, knowledge and social practices.

THE JOURNEY OF THINGS. Reflections on Belen Cerezo’s photographic series “Made in” by Tomás Ariztía.

Therefore, the task consists on making visible the manner in which things travel and connect different worlds and how by doing this they ‘globalise’ it. However, it is not possible to draw only one map of these connections, but many, each of them pertinent to to the trajectory, practices, objects and knowledge that participate in their production, distribution and consumption. In one extreme of the journey of things, the means and regimes of production can be found; on the other, the commercialisation practices, uses and ways in which consumers take ownership of objects and give them meaning.

Belén Cerezo’s photographs rigorously execute this mapping task. And they do it in a very special way: by showing labels with designations of origin (Cambodia, Ukraine) intertwined with brands with global aspirations. It is a paradox of the standardisation of goods, which travel from one point to another although they are presumed to come from an abstract global marketplace.Contrary to the big tales of globalisation, these photographs propose a much more timid narrative. In this subtle version of things, the hidden clues and signs of the journey are shown, the multiple threads and materials in which the abstraction of globalisation resides.

THE JOURNEY OF THINGS. Reflections on Belen Cerezo’s photographic series “Made in” by Tomás Ariztía.