International Conference – ‘Guerrilla Markets: Exchange Systems as Survival Politics in Northeast Asia’, May 2016

Image credited to Tom Cliff
Image credited to Tom Cliff

This conference takes a fresh and unorthodox look at the growth and the nature of market exchanges in East Asia. The extraordinarily rapid rise of the capitalist market economy in the region has generated much academic and media debate, but this debate is often based on assumptions about the existence of a single entity called “the market”, and on a presumed dichotomy between “state controlled” and “market” economies.

But what is “the market”? Our conference opens up that question by exploring some of the multitude of unorthodox exchange systems – guerrilla markets – which flourish in East Asia as grassroots responses to rapid social transformation.

Guerrilla markets span the space between formal and informal markets. They may be complicit in and/or subversive of existing structures of power. Their medium of exchange is not necessarily limited to state-authorised money. They emerge as social groups and communities struggle to survive rapid social change and to create ways of existence that may or may not accord with the aims of state authorities. In guerrilla markets – which include unauthorized trade and mutual aid schemes, knowledge exchanges, cooperatives and complementary currency schemes − economic exchange is inseparably interconnected with social and cultural exchange.

Participants in the conference will include not only academic researchers but also those with first-hand experience of involvement in local grassroots action in the region spanning China, Japan, Taiwan, the two Koreas and Mongolia. Their papers will examine unorthodox forms of exchange that flourish within China’s old and new religions, informal mutual aid schemes in China, the spread of local currency schemes and some of their current manifestations in Japan, cooperative agricultural projects in Taiwan and South Korea, the range of intriguing “guerrilla markets” springing up in North Korea and trans-border knowledge exchange networks in East Asia. We consider the social and political implications of these developments for the broader region also encompassing Australia, and relate them to trends in the development of unorthodox exchange systems in Australia and worldwide.

Speakers include –

Dr Peter North, University of Liverpool
Prof Robert Weller, Boston University
Prof Andrei Lankov, Kook-min University
Ms Yoonkyung, Rolling Jubilee/Living with Hope, Korea
Ms Keiko Yasui, Ma~yu, Local Currency Group, Japan
Mr Chun-hyun Cho, Photo-journalist (China-North Korea Border)

The symposium forms part of the Australian Research Council Laureate project ‘Informal Life Politics’ in the Making of Northeast Asia: From Cold War to Post-Cold War.

Conference ProgramGuerrilla Markets (PDF)

For follow-up discussion comments – please click here

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