Global Markets and Local Communities: Social Histories of International Business

AHA Session 28
Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Arlington Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
John Hanson, Indiana University
Stephanie Decker, Aston University

Session Abstract

While historians have examined the economic and political roles of multinational companies in places like Africa, Latin America, and Asia, this panel shifts focus onto the social and cultural history of these global networks. Beyond advertising, marketing, and selling goods, many of these foreign firms embedded themselves in local communities.  Local employees—managers, distributors, and retailers—often acted as cultural middlemen/women, navigating company policies, mediating between newer and older ways of selling, and making claims on company resources. Local consumers also negotiated relationships with these foreign firms by assigning new meanings to products sold and often out right rejecting goods.  Social histories of business networks provide a rich area of study to investigate the operation of global capital, including its boundaries and limitations.  This area of research also examines the close relationship among consumption, colonialism, and commercial life in many places considered the “non-West” and interrogates the legacy of such links. Fusing together a variety of sources, including oral histories and extensive research housed in corporate archives, members of this panel hope to offer new perspectives on the role foreign and local business networks in the making of global markets.

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