Commodity Frontiers

The first CF Key Concept Conversation about “commodity frontier” will take place on Wednesday 16th of June, from 4 to 6 p.m. (CEST), with the overture of Jason W. Moore, and Mindi Schneider, Ulbe Bosma, Eric Vanhaute and Sven Beckert as speakers.

If you want to attend, please send a mail to Jacqueline Rutte from the International Institute of Social History, via
After registration you will be sent the introductory text of Jason W. Moore and the Zoom link. Only a limited number of places is available.

This first session will be a special one, not only because we will discuss our most basic key concept, but also because Jason Moore who coined the concept in social sciences two decades ago agreed to offer a critical and thought-provoking analysis of the use of the concept today. Not to be missed!  

Lexicon of Commodity Frontiers
Editors: Claudia Bernardi, Hanne Cottyn, Eric Vanhaute

Why a lexicon?

We feel the urgency to compose a commodity frontiers lexicon as a tool for discussion and education and to open up vibrant conversations within our network. The lexicon proposes some concepts that are at the core of the research within the Commodity Frontiers Initiative. These concepts are crucial terms in our historical and contemporary research. The lexicon is not meant to be exhaustive or conclusive; it does not propose clear-cut definitions for establishing a rigid framework or a single view. On the contrary, this lexicon aims to be a logbook that keeps track of the efforts of translating our world into comprehensible processes to be further investigated. The lexicon brings together concepts and terms with a long trajectory within or outside academia and newly emerging words, often originating in the work and practice of social movements. It offers insights to dynamic problems worth to be rethought and discussed through key concepts that serve as a compass while navigating the global history of commodity frontiers. The lexicon is a space of conversation and confrontation to test our ideas and forge new critical ones.

What for?

The Lexicon of Commodity Frontiers that will be housed at the CFI website into a new section. It is meant to question the main ideas within our network through a set of key concepts and also to promote discussion and exchange with commentators. Furthermore, it aims at building a scientific and educational tool that engages with different languages and formats of translation, and addresses scholars, students and various social actors.


As there are many views and ways to confront an issue, the Lexicon of Commodity Frontiers is open to various languages and formats to be experimented: descriptions, conversations, videos, sounds, images, artistic contributions are all welcome. Nonetheless, each keyword is developed moving from a starting point that works as a common format of each lexicon keyword.

  • The common format

As a starting point, the editors propose the main keywords that are at the core of CFI. For each keyword the editors organize a seminar based on two steps.

First, we organize an overture by inviting for each selected keyword a speaker to present a short written description of the concept. This text will serve as a starting point to open up the conversation and it will be shared within the network. 

Secondly, we organize an online video recorded conversation about the keyword between the speaker and other four speakers that are either members of our network or interesting contacts. After presenting the overture and the contributions by speakers, the floor will be open to CFI network’s members. 

Finally, the editors prepare a short description of the concept based on the conversation to be agreed by the network members, and be shared on the website together with the video of the full conversation. This short text will serve as a general and introductory description of the concept.

  • Further formats

The description of the keyword and the conversation open the path to further formats that can be proposed by CFI network members. Not all the words need to follow the same format beside the common format; some may have documentary or artistic contributions, or a sound contribution, etc. All this material will be uploaded on the website in the section and will be fully part of the lexicon. 

Work plan

The editors strive for four conversations per year. 

We will compile a provisional list of keywords; some of them have been already discussed within the network during our meetings, but suggestions can be made directly to the editors or through the CFI website. After selecting the keywords, we will identify the speakers for each entry: all suggestions are very welcome. 

The invited speaker will prepare a short overture that will be sent to the speakers; then each speaker will share a contribution of a few pages (max 2.000 words) that will be presented during the online conversation; then the floor will be open to the discussion with network members and participants. 

Editors will write the description of the key word that will be uploaded on the CFI website section. Other educational and artistic formats will be proposed and provided as part of the keyword entry: suggestions and proposals by CFI members are very much welcome and needed. 

All contents will be uploaded on the Lexicon section together with the video of the online conversation, and will be shared on our social networks. 


Keyword 1: Commodity Frontier 

Overture: Jason W. Moore

Speakers: Sven Beckert, Ulbe Bosma, Mindi Schneider, Eric Vanhaute

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