Performing Product Trajectories and Overlapping Markets: An analysis of Coffee Global Value Chains

Winfred Onyas, 2012

This research presents an original contribution to knowledge, illuminating how overlapping product trajectories and markets co-evolve, mutually influencing each other. By so doing, this study sheds light on how markets define, interrupt and divert product trajectories; with product trajectories holding together markets, connecting goods, agencies and practices enacted at different points in the trajectory. Putting forward an Exchange Networks model, this research extends the notion of market framing (Callon, 1999) to analyse overlapping markets, examining how market agencies compete to define exchange objects and to enrol suppliers into their market actor-networks. This analysis importantly draws attention to the shifting exchange networks connecting buyers, suppliers and exchange objects, revealing how agential practices shape and sustain overlapping markets.

Analysing global value chains as an example of a product trajectory, this research reports on the findings of an ethnographic study of a global coffee trajectory originating from the Good African Company market in Uganda – a Southern-led differentiated coffee market existing alongside the mainstream coffee market. The empirical data gathered captures the everyday practices of agencies shaping these two competing markets at the farmer-buyer segment of their coffee trajectories. This study therefore addresses an empirical gap in the Global Value Chain and commodity studies literature, providing a detailed analysis of how a Southern-led differentiated coffee market existing alongside the mainstream market is performed. In so doing, this research uncovers the particularities largely obscured in the structures, systems and flows portrayed in Global Value Chain studies, addressing the reductionism assumed in the approach. An actor-network frame of reference developed in this thesis draws attention to the entrepreneurial capacity of semi-illiterate farmers and the unevenly distributed value along the coffee global value chain. These represent pertinent issues of interest to international development agencies, policy makers and NGOs in designing markets for, and channelling support to, developing countries.