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Fall 2016 Program


Historical and Contemporary Supply Chains: From the Silk Road to the Fashion Runaway

Supply-Chain Analytics Overview

From the days of the ancient Silk Route, Opium Route, and Spice Route in the ancient and medieval periods to the development of the first modern complex global product linkages for rum, tea, and cotton during the age of empires, India has been connected to the rest of Asia and the world. Similarly, within the Indian subcontinent itself, chains of connection supplying temples, mosques and bazaars have operated for millennia.

The idea of supply chains helps us understand the ethical and spatial dimensions through which people, goods and ideas circulate locally, regionally, and globally. The supply chain framework allows us to analyze a range of important issues related to the products we use. What rules, norms, and material constraints govern these circulations? The “Supply Chain” theme will provide a framework for exploring a wide range of topics including social, religious, economic and political change in historical and contemporary India.

Supply chain analysis entails an interdisciplinary approach. Sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, economists and historians have long studied the chain of value-accumulation and production that brings a good to its final consumer. Insights from a range of disciplines and various levels of analysis are necessary to make sense of complex supply chains. For this reason, a team approach to this curriculum item will take advantage of the range of student backgrounds and interests.

Supply-Chain Analytics Methods and Questions

Different products arrive at the final consumer through different routes. What is the environmental impact of the chain that brings a good into our hands? What are the effects on workers (livelihoods, health, family life, education) who contribute to the production, transportation, distribution, sales and servicing of a product? What are the gender impacts of a value chain? What are the ethnic, identity or cultural components of a supply chain? How are the profits associated with the value-added steps in a supply chain distributed? “Governance” is a key question in supply chain analytics: Who are the most powerful actors the chain? What principles or logic shape the supply chain? What priorities do those powerful actors emphasize? For example do producers dominate the supply chain? Or consumers? Is price, quality, or reliability emphasized? What trade-offs are associated with different priorities?

Supply-Chain Analytics: Curriculum Elements Overview

Through assigned reading, excursions, current-events exposure, lectures, and routine journaling, students will learn how to analyze supply chains and develop “audits” or assessments of various products’ supply chains. In collaborative small teams, students will prepare presentations on specific products that will summarize their assessments. These assessments will be comparable with one another. They will be posted on the internet with images, tables and other visualizations that will allow students to reference one another’s presentations and to display their work for family and friends curious to learn about India and what students are exploring while in the field.