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Fashion knockoffs are everywhere. Even in the out-of-the-way markets of highland Guatemala, fake branded clothes offer a cheap, stylish alternative for people who cannot afford high-priced originals. Fashion companies have taken notice, ensuring that international trade agreements include stronger intellectual property protections to prevent brand “piracy.” In Regulating Style, Kedron Thomas approaches the fashion industry from the perspective of indigenous Maya people who make and sell knockoffs, asking why they copy and wear popular brands, how they interact with legal frameworks and state institutions that criminalize their livelihood, and what is really at stake for fashion companies in the global regulation of style.
List of Illustrations
1. Economic Regulation and the Value of Concealment
2. The Ethics of Piracy
3. Brand Pollution
4. Fiscal and Moral Accountability
5. Making the Highlands Safe for Business
Conclusion: Late Style
Kedron Thomas is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. She is coeditor, with Kevin Lewis O’Neill, of Securing the City: Neoliberalism, Space, and Insecurity in Postwar Guatemala.
"Regulating Style brings anthropology to fashion. An inquiry into the production of brand and style in the global south, this book contributes to passionate debates about intellectual property rights in a novel realm: the global fashion industry. Thus far, scholarship has focused on IP rights as they relate to digital media, which means that the distributed networks of production in the garment and fashion industries have not been treated in a similar, systematic way. Regulating Style brings both production and creative processes into one frame for a new view of the distributed networks of a powerful global industry."—Janet Roitman, The New School for Social Research
"Regulating Style is timely, theoretically innovative, methodologically sound, and well-written. Intellectual property rights is a well-tilled field, but Thomas takes a new and innovative approach that adds significantly to our understanding of piracy in the context of developing countries as well as indigenous peoples, who offer their own understanding of the issues that sometimes converge and sometimes diverge from Western frameworks. This is an important piece of scholarship: academically meritorious, on a subject of much theoretical interest, and told in a compelling narrative fashion."—Edward F. Fischer, Vanderbilt University
"Regulating Style is a remarkable ethnography exploring the garment industry in the indigenous Guatemalan highlands. Demonstrating the ways in which brand ‘piracy’ is secured by racialised systems of distinction in global political economies and countered by local moral economies of community, Thomas makes a groundbreaking contribution to economic and legal anthropology. Her unique insights into legal rights, poverty, and insecurity add significant dimensions to the evolving schlolarship on intellectual property, human rights, and development."—Rosemary J. Coombe, Tier One Canada Research Chair in Law, Communication, and Culture, York University