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Sociology & Anthropology

Shea Butter Republic: State Power, Global Markets, and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity

Summary of Book by Brenda Chalfin, 2004
Published by Routledge (London, United Kingdom)

Brenda Chaflin publishes on questions of sovereignty, commodities, globalization, bureaucracy and borders in Ghana. Her most recent book Neoliberal Frontiers: An Ethnography of Sovereignty in West Africa offers an examination of the practices of the officials of the Customs office in Ghana. In Shea Butter Republic, Chalfin examines the production and circulation of shea butter from a pre to a post-industrial commodity, attending to the central role of rural women who produce shea oil with fairly “traditional” techniques. Shea butter is produced at the intersection of various technical and economic formations, through which it is sold and distributed to regional and global markets. Chalfin sustains her interest in the role of the state, demonstrating the historical impact of colonial policies and more recent global forces, to reveal the consequences of increased privatization and free market reforms in shaping the trade of shea oil.