Inside the Global Supply Chain: Transnational Migrant Labour, Commodity Circulation and Digitised Economies across Taiwan

Taiwanese ports are paradigmatic sites to observe the new shapes of our globalised economic system. If global corporations are mostly pictured as the major actors of the global supply chain, in this talk Dr Zani looks at the invisible actors who daily contribute to its functioning: migrant maritime workers, by large employed and exploited in the shipping sector. Drawing on ethnographic work in the Taiwanese ports of Kaohsiung, Bali and Kinmen, Dr Zani examines the social, economic, logistic and digital resources Indonesian, Chinese and Filipino maritime workers mobilize to cope with inequality. To achieve upward social mobility, migrants get ‘connected’. Using online applications, and cooperating with multiple actors, on material and digitized economic circuits, they trade ‘small commodities’ and produce novel transnational and digital economies. Through a focus on the invisible workers of the global supply chain and their daily experiences of global work, and informal commerce, this talk sheds new light on the diversity of global economies, and on the role of digital migrant connectivity in shaping global trade and globalization.

Dr Beatrice Zani is a sociologist, full-time researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)/ Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Economic Sociology (LISE). She also regularly teaches at Sciences Po. Her research interests include economic sociology, transnational migration, digitality, logistics and globalization. Looking at the functioning of Asian economies, her ongoing research explores the link between migration, digitality and migrant entrepreneurship in the transformation of work and globalization.