chapter  7
8 Pages

Cross-border commodities

Processual histories, commodity chains, and the yak tail trade
WithTina Harris

This chapter focuses on the intersections between mobility, commodities, and borders in Asia. First, it outlines why some processual histories or ‘process geographies’ have been useful for informing more contemporary studies of commodities in Asian borderlands. Second, it investigates some patterns that can be drawn from a selection of the scholarship on specific commodities in Asian borderlands: how focusing on flows of commodities in regions that are often considered ‘remote’ can also highlight state regulatory mechanisms; how various groups come to have profoundly differential access and control over certain commodities; and how the very idea of ‘Asian borderlands’ itself might be challenged through studies of the cross-border movement of commodities. Finally, in order to draw out these themes in more detail, the chapter concludes with a brief consideration of one specific commodity: the Himalayan yak tail. By drawing from a wide range of historical and ethnographic sources, it aims to demonstrate that commodity-level research is ideally placed to draw out broad, dynamic themes that can expand the study of borders and borderland processes in Asia, themes such as state and territory formation, changing consumption meanings and values, and the direction of global capital.