This study anthropologically investigates tensions within the transnational wool industry, a commercial network that emerged from European colonial projects that distributed sheep to the Global South’s grasslands. Wool production is an industry with a key paradox: it is highly industrialised yet cannot be detached from place-specific ecologies and social relations. Wool sheared from sheep is materially shaped by the geopolitical and ecological particularities of the grasslands where they are raised. This study explores 1) how these local diversities shape the global wool industry, 2) how local sheep rearing and landscape management practices are shaped by practitioners’ imaginaries of geographically distant parts of the wool industry. It develops a bottom-up approach to studying supply chains, attending to situated perspectives and knowledges of actors in three wool regions: Patagonia, Australia and South Africa. The approach deploys collaborative filmmaking as both method and analytical tool: the project engages sheep farmers, indigenous elderly, laboratory technicians and ambulant sheep shearers in the three regions, and businessmen at the Europe based International Wool Textile Organisation, in describing their version of global wool, analysing their own position within wool networks, and discussing how they understand the ‘globalities’ of the other sites. Building on previous work by the ER and conversations in visual anthropology, the project positions collaborative filmmaking as research practice, not dissemination. It also specifically explores connections and imaginaries that travel directly across the Global South (and not via European centres). Bringing in Global South perspectives, this project disrupts a notion of linear north-south axes and describes how a complex weave of knowledges among grassland regions shapes sheep grazing and landscape management.
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