Commodity chains as spatial formats between imagination and materialization

Markus Sattler (IfL)

Publication Date

May 2023


SFB 1199 (Leipzig U)




Working Paper



Additional Information


Commodity chains and cognates approaches are widely debated in many social science disciplines to understand and explain the drivers, mechanisms and effects of transnational production processes, including development perspectives and economic inequalities. This article aims to situate the understanding of commodity chains and cognate approaches as historically constituted imaginations of spatial economic relations that contingently travel between scientific disciplines and a wide range of social actors (policy makers, enterprises). The article is based on a spatial heuristic for understanding globalization processes inspired by the Leipzig school of global studies. Discussing commodity chains as spatial formats defined by the interplay of imagination / materialization in the context of particular spatial orders (of a globalized economy), leads to a number of hitherto less explored research questions. Drawing on this school of theorizing, I argue that the multiplicity of approaches should be embraced but simultaneously questioned from the perspective of why, how and for whom differences in imagination and enactment matter. Building upon the centrality of performativity based on the interplay of imagination / materialization, I highlight four areas (divided into chain actors and along imagination and materialization) in which commodity chain related research could benefit from a closer engagement with the Leipzig school heuristic.

Biographical Note

Markus Sattler (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL))

Markus Sattler studied Political Sciences and Geography at the University in Bremen. Afterwards he studied International Studies in Berlin and Potsdam. Since 2020 he is part of the IfL. His research interest is Multiple geographies of regional and local development and regional European Geographies with a focus on power, domination and agency in human geography.