WPES: Kedron Thomas, Anthropology

“Supply Chain Capitalism and the Problem of Scale in ‘Ethical Fashion’”

Discussant: Ila Sheren, Art History, Sam Fox School

Abstract: Sweatshop conditions and negative environmental impacts that characterize the fashion industry’s globalized supply chains are well documented. In this paper, Dr. Kedron Thomas explores the work that fashion designers and supply chain managers situated at small-scale design and manufacturing firms in Portland (OR), San Francisco, and London are doing to build supply chains they understand as more ethical and environmentally sustainable than standard industry models. She focuses on cultural processes of scaling evident in reflexive discussions and practices of supply chain management, whereby spatial and relational terms such as “local” and “familiar” function as scalar and methodological antonyms for a problematized “global” production system marked by unethical business practices. In analyzing how questions of scale frame the performance, extension, and enforcement of normative and parochial definitions of ethics via contracting relationships and purchasing decisions, she also considers anthropology’s own projects of scaling and ethics in light of the discipline’s longstanding commitments to “local knowledge.”