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Müller, Juliane (2021): THE LIMITS OF CORPORATE CHAINS AND BRAND MANAGEMENT: Loyalty and the Efficacy of Vernacular Markets in the Andes. In: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 36, No. 2: pp. 252-281

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This article offers a nuanced ethnographic description of the encounter between multinational corporations and the economic actors who distribute and commercialize their commodities. By analyzing the labor of lower-level employees and the strategies of the middle management of Samsung Electronics Bolivia against traders' practices and understandings and the vernacular market infrastructure, I offer a substantive interpretation of the obstacles and unintended outcomes of corporate commodity chain and brand management as it expands into an emerging market such as that in Bolivia. Street vendors, shopkeepers, and wholesalers are teased with personalized attention, gifts, and monetary incentives to sell the high-priced premium brands and build legible inventory, but they have remained notoriously disloyal. By focusing on the agreements and tensions between corporations and traders about how to move, store, categorize, advertise, and price the products, this article engages with the literature on urban marketplace trade and commercial transactions, counterfeit commodities, and economic power in globalized markets and supply chains. To think about the appeal and effectiveness of vernacular market channels and arrangements offers a conceptual lens to critically address the efficiency paradigm in supply-chain thinking, as well as to analyze discrepancies and power struggles not only among economic actors (such as traders and corporations) but also between different forms of valuation that co-exist and compete in markets.

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