Lively commodities and encounter value

24 May 2019

Rendering nonhuman life for sale is a fundamental facet of contemporary capitalism. Political economy extensively examines how nature is commodified but fails to analyse the difference liveliness of animals makes to processes of commodification. Drawing upon empirical work on lions and elephants in the political economies of tourism and biodiversity conservation in India, this paper proposes analytics for understanding commodification and accumulation in relational and less humanist terms. First, it develops Haraway’s concepts of ‘lively commodities’ and ‘encounter value’, foregrounding animal ecologies to rework political economic categories of the commodity, labour and production in more-than-human terms. Second, it examines how lively commodities and encounter value configure political economies, mapping their specificities and economic potential. The paper advances potential diagnostics and vocabularies through which ecology and non-dualist accounts of agency might be integrated into the nature-as-resources approach of political economy.