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Supply Chain Stories: Logistical Media and the Fake Goods Economy

Susan Zieger will give a talk on the growth of the Fake Goods Economy and the values created by the supply chain.

Event, Research Seminar


The twenty-first century intensification of global logistics has expanded the counterfeit goods economy in sectors from fashion to auto parts to pharmaceuticals. Thanks to large-scale consumer platforms, supply chain insecurity, increased speed, and high trade volumes, fake shoes and drugs reach consumers before branded originals. The fake economy now exceeds 3.3% of world trade. A vast array of logistical media secures the supply chain, tracks and traces goods, and verifies their authenticity through chronicles and narratives I call “supply chain stories.” Far from dense or literary texts, these are sometimes no more than codes to be recognized automatically. Yet on them rests a demand for authenticity as the ultimate value of global mass consumption. The drive toward transparent consumption that generates supply chain stories favors the legitimate economy, whether in the authentic luxury products of the enrichment economy described by Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre, or in the “premium mediocre” products of fast casual food chains. So too does the trade in fakes, which drives up the price of authenticity. Authenticity is so greatly valued that the logistical media that create it, and the narratives and aesthetics that support it, will only expand and intensify as both kinds of global trade increase. This expansion and intensification set the stage for a new politics grounded in proof of work. 


Susan Zieger is Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Riverside. She received her BA in English Literature from Dartmouth College in 1995, her MSc in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from Imperial College, UK in 2000, and her PhD in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. She is the author of Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century British and American Literature (2008), The Mediated Mind: Affect, Ephemera, and Consumerism in the Nineteenth Century (2018), and numerous articles investigating the intersections of consumption, identity, and mass culture.