Fabricating Transnational Capitalism

A Collaborative Ethnography of Italian-Chinese Global Fashion

Fabricating Transnational Capitalism

The Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures

More about this series

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 4 illustrations Published: January 2019

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Art and Visual Culture > Fashion, Asian Studies > East Asia

In this innovative collaborative ethnography of Italian-Chinese ventures in the fashion industry, Lisa Rofel and Sylvia J. Yanagisako offer a new methodology for studying transnational capitalism. Drawing on their respective linguistic and regional areas of expertise, Rofel and Yanagisako show how different historical legacies of capital, labor, nation, and kinship are crucial in the formation of global capitalism. Focusing on how Italian fashion is manufactured, distributed, and marketed by Italian-Chinese ventures and how their relationships have been complicated by China's emergence as a market for luxury goods, the authors illuminate the often-overlooked processes that produce transnational capitalism—including privatization, negotiation of labor value, rearrangement of accumulation, reconfiguration of kinship, and outsourcing of inequality. In so doing, Fabricating Transnational Capitalism reveals the crucial role of the state and the shifting power relations between nations in shaping the ideas and practices of the Italian and Chinese partners.


"Grounded in an innovative, collaborative multi-sited ethnography, this book makes a major contribution to existing literature by capturing the nature and power dynamics of transnational capitalism. . . . [Fabricating Transnational Capitalism] will be welcomed by a wide array of scholars interested in transnational capitalism, labor, kinship, fashion, China, Italy, and beyond." — Tiantian Zheng, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews

"This dense and fascinating book proves the relevance of the ethnographic method to analyses of the changing dynamics of transnational capitalism in recent decades." — Véronique Pouillard, Business History Review

"This book breaths fresh air into the study of global and transnational capitalism. It represents a fine example of collaborative research and an innovative approach to multi-sited ethnography. It offers important insights into how transnational capitalism happens on the ground. This is a must-read for students and scholars of anthropological political economy." — Jianhua Zhao, Asian Anthropology

"[This] book is much deeper and more nuanced than most comparative or multi-sited studies. The analysis is lucid, innovative, and book reviews thought provoking. The insights are vividly illustrated by interview materials that are carefully qualified and corroborated. This is book that should and will be widely read and discussed in years to come in the fields of globalization, migration, labor, economic sociology and anthropology." — Biao Xiang, Journal of Chinese Overseas

"This book skilfully explains the dynamic nature of global capitalism and illustrates how the Chinese-Italian transnational market and resource exchanges have expanded industrial capacity. . . . I would recommend this book to a broad readership interested in these topics as well as in Chinese studies, area studies, and kinship." — Shih-Ying Lin, China Information

"Fabricating Transnational Capitalism is remarkable not only for its convincing argument but also for its form: the book is a collaborative ethnography about capitalist transnational collaborations." — Gerda Kuiper, Anthropology Book Forum

“Lisa Rofel and Sylvia Yanagisako have provided a creative ethnography of Italian-Chinese ventures in the global fashion industry, making a unique contribution, both conceptually and methodologically.”

— Xiaogang Wu, American Journal of Sociology

"[Rofel and Yanagisako] give detailed and nuanced insights into the processes of transnational capitalism, including privatization, the negotiation of the value of labor, and kinship." — Hazel Clark, Journal of Asian Studies

“Drawing on the legacy of feminist critiques of public–private spheres, the authors expose how assumptions about such divisions in capitalism play out in globalized contexts. As such, they disrupt ‘an ideal type model’ and bring an understanding of capitalism as a diverse set of arrangements even in highly transnational contexts. Their comparison illuminates the role of states and private entities in structuring enterprises and reveals dynamics that shape value and accumulation as well as kinship and inequality…. The book holds particular value for scholars in globalization studies, political economy, economic sociology, and anthropology, as well as business and organization studies.” — Elizabeth L. Krause, American Anthropologist

"Fabricating Transnational Capitalism's key contributions are substantive, theoretical and methodological.… The book is a refreshingly unique approach to anthropological studies of contemporary transnationalism.… It would be an excellent text to teach in courses in anthropology, geography, gender, women and sexuality studies, and political economy."  — Priti Ramamurthy, Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

“Across the reach of global capitalism, Italian managers and Chinese entrepreneurs cast sticky webs of desire toward each other. And yet, as they negotiate the value of their respective labors, a quite different history of assessment and translation is brought into play for each. Fabricating Transnational Capitalism unpacks what global capital means on the ground. There are surprises: investment is kinship; private is state-run. For the ethnographic study of political economy, the book will become a classic.” — Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

“Lisa Rofel and Sylvia J. Yanagisako's innovative collaboration offers significant insights into the dynamics of global capitalism in the contemporary moment. Nuanced, fluidly argued, and written with considerable verve, Fabricating Transnational Capitalism is not just a brilliant work by two scholars at the cutting-edge of their fields; it envisions and models what collaborative ethnography can become and might achieve.” — Karen Ho, author of Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lisa Rofel is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture, also published by Duke University Press.

Sylvia J. Yanagisako is Edward Clark Crossett Professor of Humanistic Studies and Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University and author of Producing Culture and Capital: Family Firms in Italy.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Robert J. Foster  vii
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction  1
I. The Negotiation of Value  35
1. Negotiating Managerial Labor Power and Value / Lisa Rofel and Sylvia J. Yanagisako  43
II. Historical Legacies and Revisionist Histories  109
2. The (Re-)Emergence of Entrepreneurialism in Postsocialist China / Lisa Rofel  119
3. Italian Legacies of Capital and Labor / Sylvia Yanagisako  161
4. One Fashion, Two Nations: Italian-Chinese Collaborations / Simona Segre Reinach  190
III. Kinship and Transnational Capitalism  217
5. On Generation / Sylvia Yanagisako  227
6. The Reappearance and Elusiveness of Chinese Family Firms / Lisa Rofel  264
Conclusion  303
Appendix: Four Types of Collaboration between Chinese and Italian Firms  313
Notes  319
References  345
Index  363
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0045-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0029-7
Publicity material